One student was killed and three others were injured in a shooting Wednesday morning at Freeman High School south of Spokane, and the sole suspect was detained.
Witnesses told the Spokesman-Review the student who died was a sophomore boy and the three injured were girls. The shooting happened in a hallway outside of a biology classroom.
“I was putting my backpack away and I heard a loud pop, and I turned around. He was walking around,” said Elisa Vigil, a 14-year-old freshman. “He had his pistol. His face was completely passive. He shot someone in the head. I crouched down in the hall. I looked up and a girl screamed, ‘Help me, help me, help me.’ The hall was empty. She was shot in the back. I looked to my right, and there was a boy and he was shot in the head.”
Officials had not named the suspect as of 1 p.m., but he appears to have been a sophomore at the high school.
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Michael Harper, 15, said he was a close friend of the shooter.
“He was weird,” Harper said. “And he loved the show Breaking Bad. He never really seemed like that person who had issues. He was always nice and funny and weird.”
Harper said the shooter had written his friends notes indicating he planned to do “something stupid.”
“He made a note,” Harper said. “I didn’t get mine, but my friends got theirs. I read one of my friends’ and it said he was going to do something stupid. He took it to a counselor.”
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the shooter was quickly taken into custody.
“The shooter is in the back seat of a patrol car right now,” Knezovich said at the scene, where students, parents and teachers had been corralled into school buildings after the shots rang out around 10 a.m.
Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said three of the victims were immediately transported to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
At about noon, hospital officials said they had three pediatric patients from the shooting, all in stable condition, and that no other shooting victims were expected. There had been conflicting reports about the total number of people injured.
Hospital security and local law enforcement were directing traffic in the area.
“We’re all hands on deck,” said Dr. Jeff Collins, the hospital’s chief physician. “We train for this regularly.”
Freeman High School serves more than 300 students in the small community of Rockford. First responders from several neighboring jurisdictions responded to the shooting. Officials were urging motorists not to use Highway 27 so that ambulances and other vehicles could get through.
In the chaotic first minutes of the shooting response, an automated warning that was repeated on law enforcement radio channels said, “Freeman High School. Gunshots or stabbing. Stand back.”
A Twitter user named Christina posted a photo of children sitting on the floor of a classroom at about 10:30 a.m. with the caption: “At Freeman elementary currently. I am a junior, evacuated from the high school. At least 4 shots.”
Parents were seen making anxious phone calls near lines of caution tape, and later reuniting with their children in relieved, tearful embraces. Law enforcement officials said they might need to interview hundreds of students and other witnesses.
Amie Baxter, whose two daughters attend Freeman Middle School, just across the street from the high school, said in a phone call that children were running into buildings and an alarm was sounding when she pulled up to the school area at about 10:15 a.m. Classes were about to begin because it was supposed to be a “late start” day, Baxter said.
“They did a modified lockdown drill yesterday,” she said. “I thought it was weird because they wouldn’t do (a drill) two days in a row.”
Baxter said she was being held in a multipurpose room with about 30 other people in Freeman Elementary School, which is also nearby.
“I saw someone carrying a gurney into the elementary school but I didn’t know why,” she said.
Cheryl Moser said her son, a freshman at Freeman High School, called her from a classroom on the second floor after hearing shots fired.
“He called me and said, ‘Mom, there are gunshots.’ He sounded so scared. I’ve never heard him like that,” Moser said. “You never think about something happening like this at a small school.”
Nate Johnson said his son, also a freshman, called him clearly in tears Johnson soon talked to his daughter, a senior, who told him that the shooting occurred at least partly in the freshman hallway.
Rondielle and Chris Frye rushed to the school from their jobs after hearing about the shooting.
“My daughter actually called me because she was out at her car and she heard gunshots,” said Rondielle Frye.
Rondielle responded: “Run!”
Chris Frye drove as quickly as he could to get to the scene.
“I was about ready to have a panic attack,” he said. “I was following the cops damn fast.”
Several neighboring school districts, including Central Valley and Spokane Public Schools, imposed lockdowns as a precaution. Some of those lockdowns were lifted before 11:30 a.m.
Rockford Mayor Carrie Roecks said the community is devastated by the shooting and that she had never imagined something like it happening at a small school like Freeman, where practically everyone knows one another.
“Not knowing who is affected is hard,” Roecks said. “It doesn’t matter who it is because it’s going to be someone we know.”
Roecks’ grandchildren attend Freeman Elementary and she said she’s been told that all elementary school students are safe.
“What has happened here is going to affect every child in the district in one form or another,” she said. “I hope everyone stays as positive as we can be and the community just surrounds itself with a lot of love because we’re going to need it.”
Spokane Mayor David Condon said in a statement, “Our hearts are broken by the events at Freeman High School this morning. This is a terrible day for the students, parents, teachers, administrators and the rest of that close-knit community. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this horrendous tragedy. First responders in our region are one team. Spokane city employees were part of that team in the first moments and will be there for the Freeman community as it begins a long road to recovery.”
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers tweeted, “Awful — just hearing of the shooting at Freeman HS near Spokane. As we continue to get more details my heart goes out to all impacted.”
And Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement, “All Washingtonians are thinking of the victims and their families, and are grateful for the service of school staff and first responders working to keep our students safe. As Spokane County officials continue their investigation to get the answers to the questions so many of us have during these unthinkable tragedies, the Washington State Patrol and all state agencies will do whatever we can to help provide support and comfort in the days and weeks to come.”
This story is developing.