Sunday 8 December 2019

Kentucky school pupils reveal terror during mass shooting

A 15-year-old boy, who has not been identified by authorities, is in police custody.

Marshall County High School students are escorted by police after the deadly shooting (AP)
Marshall County High School students are escorted by police after the deadly shooting (AP)

By Claire Galofaro, Kristin M Hall and Dylan Lovan

Survivors of a Kentucky school shooting in which two 15-year-old pupils were killed and another 18 people were injured have revealed their terror after shots first rang out.

Some pupils ran into classrooms at Marshall County High School in Benton to hide from a 15-year-old boy who opened fire on the campus, while others ran out of the building, into the fields, across the streets, and through the doors of nearby businesses.

Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, both 15, were killed when a classmate, who has not been identified, opened fire on Tuesday morning in the school’s busy atrium, a common area in the centre of the school where children gather before classes.

Students and community members hold hands in prayer before classes another Kentucky school (AP)

Trauma consumed the rural town of about 4,300 people, where nearly everyone has a connection to the school. Parents left cars on both sides of an adjacent road, desperately trying to find their teenagers, while business owners pulled fleeing children to safety.

Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders said authorities would not yet identify a 15-year-old in police custody who is alleged to have walked into the school armed with a pistol just before 8am before opening fire.

“No-one screamed,” said 16-year-old Alexandria Caporali, recounting the moment her high school became the site of the latest American mass shooting. “It was almost completely silent as people just ran.”

Family members escort their children out of Marshal North Middle School (AP)

Ms Caporali was eating breakfast when she heard a shot, turned and saw the teenager with the gun. She knew him as a quiet boy who played music and always seemed happy. After the first shot, he seemed to hesitate.

In the same room, two 16-year-olds, Lexie Waymon and Baleigh Culp, had been laughing and talking about makeup and the homecoming basketball game. They heard a bang, and thought a book had fallen on the floor.

“That’s what I expected it to be,” Ms Culp said, “until I saw a body drop on the ground and the bangs continued. There was bullets flying everywhere.”

The boy kept shooting until he ran out of ammunition, Ms Caporali said. Then he took off running, but was soon apprehended by police and led away in handcuffs.

Students embrace following a prayer vigil at Paducah Tilghman High School (AP)

By then, more than a dozen people had been shot and others were injured as they ran from the gunfire.

Bailey died at the scene and Preston died after being taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, Tennessee. Five other people remain in a critical condition.

The case against the suspect will begin in juvenile court, which is closed to the public with the records sealed under Kentucky law. Prosecutors will request that the case be moved to an adult court, at which point the details would no longer be secret.

The suspect is being held at a regional juvenile jail in Paducah, Kentucky.

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