Suspect dead after US high school shooting

Students gather and reunite with their parents at a fast food joint across from Arapahoe High School, after a student opened fire in the school. REUTERS/Evan Semon
Students gather and reunite with their parents at a fast food joint across from Arapahoe High School, after a student opened fire in the school. REUTERS/Evan Semon
A student bent on confronting a teacher opened fire with a shotgun at a Colorado high school, wounding at least two classmates before taking his own life, law enforcement officials said.

The student entered Arapahoe High School in a Denver suburb around midday on Friday (local time) brandishing the gun and asked for the teacher by name before shooting two students, critically wounding a 15-year-old girl, said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson.

The teacher immediately fled the school and was not injured, while the gunman was later found in a classroom at the school, dead of an self-inflicted gunshot wound, Robinson said. The incident was over in 14 minutes.

"I believe the shooter knew that deputy sheriffs were immediately about to engage him and I believe that shooter took his life because he knew that he had been found," the sheriff told a news conference.

Authorities did not name the suspected gunman.

The rampage in the Denver suburb of Centennial took place just eight miles from the scene of one of the deadliest school massacres in U.S. history at Columbine High School, where two students gunned down 13 classmates and staff before killing themselves in 1999.

Robinson said there was no sign the incident was related to the anniversary on Saturday of last year's shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a gunman massacred 20 children and six adults before killing himself.

Holly Schaefer, an 18-year-old senior at Arapahoe High School, said she was in mathematics class when she and fellow students heard a loud bang. That was followed shortly by another bang and "then we knew definitely it was a gunshot."

Schaefer said her teacher immediately locked the door to the classroom as students huddled in a corner of the room.

After about 30 minutes, Schaefer said, they heard police calling out on the other side of the door. Officers eventually cleared the classroom and as students were being escorted out of the building, she said she saw blood on the hallway floor.

DEBATE TEAM

Classmates speaking to CNN described the suspected shooter, who they said was on the school's track and speech and debate teams, as smart and likeable. They said they would not have guessed that he was capable of such violence.

The sheriff said detectives were investigating "revenge" as a possible motive, but did not elaborate. The Denver Channel on ABC News reported the suspected gunman was upset after recently being kicked off the debate team. Reuters could not immediately confirm that report.

Arapahoe senior Frank Woronoff told CNN the gunman had recently been "demoted" on the debate team and that the teacher he was said to be targeting was its adviser. "I'm told that's what led him to sort of snap," Woronoff said.

Reuters was unable to contact the teacher, who was not identified by authorities, but was named in local media reports.

Authorities said searches were under way of the suspected gunman's vehicle, his home, and a secondary home.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who pushed through tougher gun control legislation this year following Newtown and last year's attack in a Colorado movie theater, called the shooting an "all-too-familiar sequence, where you have gunshots and parents racing to the school and unspeakable horror in a place of learning."

'WE SCREAMED AND RAN'

Television images from the high school showed students running out with their hands raised and gathering on a track field.

Nearby businesses were evacuated as dozens of police descended on the scene with guns drawn, on the scene. Authorities said they did not engage in a confrontation with the suspect, nor did they fire their weapons as they entered the school and then methodically evacuated students

"We were having fun and laughing, and then all of sudden we heard a really loud bang and my teacher asked what it was, and then we heard two more, and we all just got up and screamed and ran into a sprinkler system room," Whitney Riley, 15, told CNN. "It sounded like it was coming from the hall that was near us."

"We were shaking, we were crying, we were freaking out. I had a girl biting my arm," she said. "We stayed quiet and we heard a whole bunch of sounds. We heard people yelling, we heard walkie-talkies."

The most seriously wounded victim, identified only as a 15-year-old girl, was in critical condition at a local hospital. Robinson said a second student had been treated and released after suffering a minor gunshot wound.

A spokeswoman for Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado, said her hospital had treated two victims from the shooting incident, both of whom suffered non-gunshot injuries. She said one of those patients was listed in good condition and that the other had been discharged.

A device believed by police to be an improvised Molotov cocktail was also found on the grounds and a bomb squad was on hand to identify it and search for other possible explosives.

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