Middle school shooting rocks state
That’s how long it took a 12-year-old Berrendo Middle School student to enter the school’s gym full of students, pull out a .20-gauge shotgun, start firing, put the gun down and be apprehended.
And in that time, two fellow students were seriously injured and a New Mexico town became the latest victim of a tragic school shooting Tuesday.
A teacher who was in the gymnasium talked the boy into putting down the weapon, officials said, and a State Police lieutenant who happened to be at the school dropping off his child then took the boy into custody.
Both victims, an 11-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl, were airlifted to a Lubbock hospital. The boy, whose name has not been released, was in critical condition Tuesday night. He had undergone two surgeries and had injuries to his face and neck, Gov. Susana Martinez said during an evening news conference. The girl, Kendal Sanders, was in satisfactory condition, the governor said.
The suspect, Mason Campbell, was transferred to a psychiatric hospital in Albuquerque, following a court hearing Tuesday.
State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said at an evening news conference that the suspect allegedly sawed off the gun’s wood stock, put it in a bag and smuggled it into the school. He said he didn’t know where the gun came from, but added that it was “definitely concealed and covertly smuggled into that school.”
Kassetas also said police had “preliminary information” that the suspect had warned several students not to go to school on Tuesday.
“It was a harrowing experience,” said John Masterson, who was identified as the teacher who talked the suspect into putting down the weapon. “All I can say was the staff there did a great job.”
The shooting occurred around 7:30 a.m., when about 500 students were gathered in the school gym.
Eighth-grader Odiee Carranza said she was walking into the gym when a boy bumped into her as he rushed past. She told him to be careful, and he apologized and continued on. He ran to the gym, where he pulled a gun out of a band instrument case and fired at the students.
Another student, Gabbie Vasquez, said she knew the suspect. “He really didn’t talk to nobody. He’s quiet and kind of awkward,” Vasquez said.
Masterson had his back to the suspect when he heard a gunshot, which he first mistook for a firecracker, the State Police chief said. The suspect fired at least twice more, Kassetas said, before turning the gun on Masterson. Masterson spoke with the boy, who set the weapon down and put his hands up, Kassetas said. Smith took the boy into custody.
Roswell Superintendent Tom Burris estimated the shooting was over within 10 seconds. He said the school’s faculty had participated in “active shooter” training, and they responded appropriately Tuesday. Chaves County Sheriff James Coon said students also had had training in an “active shooter” class.
A student who witnessed the shooting said a male student shot the boy twice in the face and shot the girl in the arm.
Brooke Linthicum, spokeswoman for the Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, said two students were stabilized there and then transported to Lubbock.
After the shooting, students at the school were bused to a nearby mall at about 10 a.m., where hundreds of anxious parents were waiting to pick them up.
The children were immediately ushered inside. Police then called out the names of the kids, a few at a time, for parents to enter the mall and retrieve them. Parents and children left the mall, hugging each other and embracing other family members who had waited outside.
Fawna Hendricks, whose son is a seventh-grader at Berrendo, said she heard about the shooting on the radio.
“Basically I jumped outta bed, threw on clothes, panicked,” Hendricks said in the parking lot of the Roswell Mall where hundreds of parents were gathered.
Hendricks said her son’s teacher allowed him to call her. “He’s scared. Most of the kids up there are pretty scared,” she said.