Sunday, 15 December 2013

Arapahoe High School Shooting, Dec. 13 2013

Arapahoe High School, Centennial, Colorado.  Friday, Dec. 13, a high school senior, Karl Pierson, 18, entered his school at 12:30 p.m. with a shotgun and injured at least one student.

Pierson did not conceal the weapon as he entered near the library.  Students ran in the halls, yelling "Get out!  Get out!"  Counsellors and staff ran through the halls shouting to close classroom doors.  Acting in accordance with training given and drilled into them after the 1999 Columbine incident, called "standard lockdown proceedure," students and teachers locked themselves in classrooms and closets.  Classroom lights were shut off and classes huddled together on the floor.

Pierson wore tactical gear and carried a shotgun--bought legally Dec. 6--in addition to three explosives, possibly Molotov cocktails, and a machete.

Upon entering, Pierson called out for his debate coach (also a librarian at the school), Tracy Murphy.  Pierson reportedly fired a total of 5 shots.  He fired one shot down the hallway.  He fired the second shot point blank in the face of a senior girl, Claire Davis, who was sitting with a friend.  He fired the third shot down the hallway.  Pierson entered the library and set off an explosive.  He fired a fourth shot.  He then ran to the back of the library and shot himself.  Pierson was dead within 80 seconds of entering the school.

It is uncertain whether Davis was targeted, and also uncertain whether she was known to Pierson.  She was critically wounded in the head.  Reportedly, one of the shots was fired at Tracy Murphy but missed.  It was reported that Murphy exited the school, with escort, when he was told by other students that Pierson was calling for him.

The school's resource officer, an Arapahoe County deputy sheriff went looking for the source of the gunfire, but arrived after Pierson was dead.

Police arriving on the scene followed post-Columbine protocol, immediately entering the school rather than setting up a perimeter.  Converging on scene were a police swat team, a fire team, and bomb squad.   Helicopters circled above.

Authorities found Pierson's body about 20 minutes after the first call alerted them.  Police were at the locked doors of the classrooms in approximately 30 minutes and escorted students out of the building.  Parents met students at predesignated "reunion centers," a measure which lessens interference with law enforcement.

All schools in the area were put on lockdown, and parents and students were invited to meet at a neighborhood church.

Fellow students described Pierson was outspoken about politics, a gifted debater on the school's team, and a member of the track team.  He cultivated his speaking skills and sometimes debated teachers.  He had friends.  Pierson's character was reported by fellow students as "increibly humble and down to earth....  A little geeky but in a charming way."  Pierson aspired to enter the US Air Force Academy.  There are mixed reports about whether Murphy had suspended Pierson and kicked him off the debate team for threatening Murphy--threats which were not made directly to Murphy but reported to Murphy by other students--in September or whether Pierson had threatened Murphy after being suspended from the debate team.  Reportedly, Pierson was a target of bullying, but did not show other students that it bothered him.

This is the 25th school shooting in America since Dec 14, 2012.

Arapahoe High School is attended by 2200 students.  It belongs to the same school district as Columbine High School, and is a few miles from the Aurora cinema building where there was a shooting July 2012.

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