Two students opened fire Tuesday afternoon at STEM School in Highlands Ranch, a suburb of Denver, killing one and wounding 8 others.
According to Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, two students entered the school through the middle school entrance and opened fire in two different class rooms.
Nui Giasolli, who shared a British Literature class with the 18-year-old shooter, told the Today Show she was seated in the class room when he arrived. Since she shared the class with him and had known him for 4 years, she didn’t think much of it.
“The next thing I know, he is pulling a gun and is telling nobody to move,” Giasolli said.
Seniors Kendrick Castillo, Brendan Bialy and another student rushed the shooter, attempting to wrestle the gun away from him.
“That’s when Kendrick lunged at him, and he shot Kendrick,” Giasolli said, “… giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape.”
The other shooter opened fire at the same time, but some reports suggest that shooter was captured by a school security guard. It was first reported that the second shooter was also male, however, law enforcement officials have since corrected the description of the second shooter to that of a female juvenile. As she is under age her identity was not released as it had for the 18-year-old male shooter.
Police arrived within two minutes of the first reports of the shooting from a nearby sub-station, hearing gun fire as they ran into the building. Running out of the building where students ranging in grades from K-12.
Meanwhile, students in all parts of the building who hadn’t fled, hid themselves as best they could.
According to Fox8, 15-year-old Chris Elledge said he’d been hiding behind the weight lifting equipment when police flooded the school,
“They busted in the room, and they were asking if there was any suspects in the room, if we were OK, and they escorted us out to go out to the front of the building,” he said.
Officers quickly located and arrested the two shooters without firing. Two handguns were reported by detectives who collected them for evidence in connection with the shooting.
Frantic parents soon arrived in work uniforms to find their children, but due to security concerns, were forced to wait at a nearby recreation center to hear if their children were okay.
Giasolli’s mother, Nyki described the event as a “nightmare”,
“It’s been so hard, but I did get to hold my babies last night and they are home with me now,” she told the Today Show.
Sara Marks, who has two children in STEM School, said it was a terrifying experience to see the text messages come in from her children,
“When you have no idea what’s going on and the children are texting you that they’re hiding under a desk and bullets are hitting their window, or things are hitting their window, it’s a horrible feeling,” she said.
Fernando Montoya, whose 17-year-old son was shot three times but expected to make a full recovery, told the Denver Channel,
“Thank God he is fine,” Montoya said. “Even though he got shot, he’s OK. He’s going to walk out on his feet, so I’m glad. We’re so lucky.”
18-year-old Brendan Bialy, one of the teens who assisted Castillo in wrestling the shooter, is being called a hero for his willing defense of his classmates.
“Brendan’s courage and commitment to swiftly ending this tragic incident at the risk of his own safety is admirable and inspiring. His decisive actions resulted in the safety and protection of his teachers and fellow classmates.” Capt. Michael Maggitti said of Bialy, who plans on shipping off to USMC Bootcamp this summer.
Kaitlyn Ross, a journalist for 11Alive News in Atlanta said on Facebook,
“Brendan, our country is lucky to have you.”
A tearful Nui Giasolli told NBC she greatly appreciates the bravery of the Castillo and the other boys who tried to protect her and her classmates,
“They were brave enough to bring him down so that all of us could escape and all of us could be reunited with our families. I can’t thank them enough,” she said.
Nui went on to say that she refuses to allow the shooters to destroy her community the way they intended,
“I don’t want to give the shooters the satisfaction of being afraid of some place that was my second home for four years,” she said. “I want to show them that even though they did this terrible, terrible thing, that we can all come together and we can all make it a happy place again, because that’s what really matters,” she said.
Other reports of heroism continue to appear. One student helped his friend who had been shot in the back out of the school to the nearby home of Rocco DeChalk.
“He had a friend with him. His friend was applying pressure to his back where he was shot,” DeChalk said.
He helped the wounded boy and his friend into the kitchen of his home and called 911 for an ambulance. The dispatcher informed him that because of the nature of the situation, it may be some time before help might arrive.
DeChalk commended the friend for his loyalty and bravery to stick by his classmate,
“The true hero in my opinion is his friend who… stayed with him in an active shooting environment… and applied pressure to his wound the entire time. He is truly a hero,” DeChalk said.
Micheal Schwartz, a student who knew the male shooter, said he remembered the dark comments the other boy told him about wanting to cause harm and sadness.
“I always thought he was just messing around and stuff, but sometimes he did hint at it here and there,” Schwartz said.
The male shooter is scheduled for a court appearance tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., however there are no reports on what is being done with the female shooter.
Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement about the shooting,
“The heart of all Colorado is with the victims and their families.”