As details in school shooting emerge, law enforcement continues search for motive and community remains in shock
(Mark Wilson Photos)
The community of Roswell remains in shock after two students were shot at Berrendo Middle School around 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Parents and family raced down Main Street to converge on the Roswell Mall following the incident. People wept and held each other; others prayed as they waited to hear if their sons or daughters were among the injured.
In a late night press conference, Gov. Susana Martinez confirmed the name of one of the two student victims: Kendal Sanders.
She said the 13-year-old girl was shot in the right shoulder, but made it through surgery and was listed in stable condition.
The name of the second victim, a 12-year-old boy, was withheld at the request of the family. He had been shot in the side of the face and the neck and had gone through two surgeries.
“They have asked to be left alone. … They want to focus on their son.”
One school employee received minor injuries, but refused medical treatment. Martinez complimented John Masterson, who assisted the child who had been wounded, and school security, who had helped to disarm the 12-year-old shooter.
New Mexico State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Emmanuel Guiterrez thanked the entire law enforcement community for their work.
“Tonight, we will be serving three search warrants for his locker, the bag and his residence.”
He said that the shooter is in NMSP custody and he repeated that there had been only one person involved in the incident. However, Gutierrez reported that according to preliminary information, the shooter had warned some students to stay away from school on Tuesday.
The weapon was a 20 gauge sawed-off shotgun, which he concealed within a bag as he carried it into the building. Officials are not releasing the juvenile’s name.
District Attorney Janetta Hicks told reporters that no charges will be filed until the investigation is complete.
Gutierrez said 500 students were gathered in the gymnasium where the incident occurred; 60 have been interviewed.
According to Roswell Independent School District Superintendent Tom Burris, the incident lasted less than 10 seconds between the time when first shots rang out until teachers had control of the situation.
Gutierrez credited the quick response to the active shooter training conducted by the Chaves County Sheriff‘s Office.
Sheriff Rob Coon commended the trainers for the program, developed by Sgt. Mike Herrington, for their work in getting training out to the schools.
Sheriff’s deputies and officers with the Roswell Police Department ensured that all students had been reunited with their families in a quick and orderly fashion before 11 a.m.
City Councilor and Police Committee Chairman Savino Sanchez (Ward 4) came to the mall to support and comfort the families.
He said he was hurt and stunned to hear about what happened at the middle school.
“It seems like the world has turned upside down. What was once good isn’t anymore.”
Later, after a prayer vigil (see related story on A3) he said he was gratified by the outpouring of support shown by the community.
Martinez said: “I have always found that Roswell is a strong community. New Mexicans have always come together in a time of crisis.”
Martinez promised that every resource the state had available was to be put at Roswell’s disposal.
“Grief counselors are available, contact 575-623-1480.” She also recommended people call the statewide crisis hotline at 855-662-7474.
She asked that all New Mexicans keep these children in their prayers. She hoped that the citizens of the community pull together.
Guiterrez told reporters that NMSP Lt. Gary Smith was dropping his child off at school when the principal, who had stepped outside to lock down the building, came to ask for his assistance.
“I commend the principal and the staff members for their quick response to the situation.”
He said the NMSP had no idea what the motivation was for the shooting and denied reports that someone had died as a result.
Mayor Del Jurney thanked the governor not only for her support but for her assistance in Roswell’s time of need. He complimented the law enforcement agencies for their quick and efficient response.
“Roswell is still a great place to live. … Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families,” he said.
Burris spoke of his shock.
“We come to school daily to teach. We never expect things like this will ever happen. … Today is a day no superintendent ever wants to see.”
Berrendo Middle School will be closed on Wednesday to allow any student to speak with counselors.
Numerous state and government officials attended the conference. Their comments presented a unified voice. City Councilor Jason Perry (Ward 4) said he had a heavy heart after hearing about the incident.
Councilor Art Sandoval (Ward 3) said, “It’s a bad day in Roswell when something like this happens. I hope the people will come together and pray for the families.”
Councilor Jeanine Best (Ward 3), a member of the Police Committee, expressed her pride in law enforcement. “They worked efficiently and well together.”
Speaking for her husband, State Rep. Bob Wooley (Dist. 66), Jana Wooley said: “I hope that people will respond with compassion and love. We must all pull together.”
State Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell (Dist. 58) said that this kind of incident was not supposed to happen in Roswell, but she too complimented school staff and law enforcement for their handling of the situation.
State Rep. Nora Espinoza (Dist. 59) spoke of her pride with the response of the school’s staff and the teachers at Berrendo.
Martinez urged media to behave responsibly and be wary of social media.
“Hospitals are being quoted when they haven’t released any information to us.”