BENTON, Ky. (AP) — A 15-year-old student opened fire with a handgun inside his rural Kentucky high school Tuesday, killing two classmates, injuring 19 others and sending hundreds fleeing for safety. Police were seen leading a teenager away in handcuffs. It was the nation’s first fatal school shooting of 2018. The shooter will be charged with murder and attempted murder, Kentucky State Police Lt. Michael Webb said. “He was apprehended by the sheriff’s department here on site, at the school, thankfully before any more lives could be taken,” Webb said. Police did not release any identities, nor did they describe a motive. Webb said detectives are looking into his home and background.
Students ran for their lives as the student began shooting inside an atrium just before morning classes would have begun at Marshall County High School. Many jumped into cars or ran down the highway, some not stopping until they reached a McDonald’s restaurant more than a mile away. Parents left their cars on both sides of an adjacent road, desperately trying to find their teenagers. “They was running and crying and screaming,” said Mitchell Garland, who provided shelter to between 50 and 100 students inside his nearby business. “They was just kids running down the highway. They were trying to get out of there.” A half-dozen ambulances and numerous police cars converged on the school, along with officers in black fatigues carrying assault rifles. Federal authorities responded, and Sen. Mitch McConnell sent staffers. Gov. Matt Bevin rushed from the Capitol to the scene.
Two 15-year-olds were killed: A girl died at the scene, and a boy died later at a hospital, the governor said, adding that all of the victims are believed to be students. He said 15 of those injured suffered bullet wounds. Five were flown about 120 miles (193 kilometers) to Nashville, Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, spokeswoman Tavia Smith said. “This is a wound that is going to take a long time to heal,” Bevin said. The attack marked the year’s first fatal school shooting, 23 days into 2018, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, which relies on media reports and other information. The anti-violence group Everytown for Gun Safety has counted at least 283 shootings at schools since 2013. Bevin said earlier in a statement that “It is unbelievable that this would happen in a small, close-knit community like Marshall County.”
Marshall County High School is about 30 minutes from Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, where a 1997 mass shooting killed three and injured five. Michael Carneal, then 14, opened fire there about two years before the fatal attack at Columbine High School in Colorado, ushering in an era when mass school shootings have become much more common.