Denver high school shooting suspect killed, coroner confirms
DENVER (AP) — A 17-year-old student was found dead in a Colorado woods after he was accused of shooting and injuring two administrators at his high school in Denver, where students and parents were already fed up with recent violence and inaction on the part of officials, authorities said on Thursday.
The shooting took place Wednesday morning at East Denver High School, near downtown, as two administrators searched Austin Lyle for weapons, a daily requirement due to the boy’s behavioral issues, authorities said.
Lyle fled after the shooting and his body was found Wednesday night next to his car in a remote mountainous area about 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Denver, outside the small town of Bailey, in Park County.
The county coroner’s office confirmed early Thursday that the body was Lyle’s. The cause of death has not been released, and an autopsy is pending.
The Denver Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting at 10:00 a.m. Thursday to discuss the shooting and school safety. The meeting came after parents who gathered Wednesday on the campus of East High School with 2,500 students expressed frustration that the authorities were not adequately protecting their children.
The shooting comes at a school rocked by frequent lockdowns and violence, including the recent murder outside of a classmate’s school that prompted Eastern High School students to march to the Colorado Capitol earlier this month.
“I’m sick of it,” said Jessie Haase, who planned to talk to her daughter about getting her out of class for the rest of the school year.
Some parents wondered why the district was one of many in the US that decided in the summer of 2020 to phase out school resource employees amid summer protests against racial injustice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
Amid a flurry of criticism over lax security, Denver school officials said Wednesday they would once again send armed officers to the city’s public high schools.
According to Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas, there were no school resource officers on campus at the time of the shooting.
Gun violence in schools is becoming more common in the US, with more than 1,300 shootings reported between 2000 and June 2022, according to government researchers. According to a database maintained by researchers, 377 people were killed and 1,025 injured in these shootings.
The shooting in Colorado was at least the second this week in the US at or near a school. On Monday, a 15-year-old was arrested in a fatal shooting at a student outside a high school in the Dallas area.
Wednesday’s shooting occurred shortly before 10 a.m. at the office, when Lyle was being searched as part of a “security plan” that required him to be searched daily, officials said.
According to Chief Thomas, the gun used in the shooting was not immediately located.
One of the injured administrators was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday afternoon, and the other was in serious condition, Heather Burke, a spokeswoman for the Denver Health hospital, said.
Hundreds of students skipped classes on March 3 and marched in support of stricter gun laws after the death of 16-year-old Luis Garcia, who was shot and killed while sitting in a car outside East High School.
In June 2020, amid summer protests against racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd, Denver Public Schools became one of the U.S. districts that decided to phase out the use of police officers in school buildings. This push was sparked by criticism that school resource officers were disproportionately arresting black students, plunging them into the criminal justice system.
After Wednesday’s shooting, two armed officers will be stationed at East High School for the remainder of the school year, and other city high schools will also have one officer, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero said.
Marrero said his decision likely violated county policy, but added that he “couldn’t stay away any longer.”
“I am the head of this district, tasked with ensuring the safety of our scientists and employees on a daily basis,” he wrote.
Eastern High School students were scheduled to testify Wednesday afternoon before the Colorado Legislature over gun safety bills.
“This is the reality of youth in America: sitting during a shooting and waiting for information just hours before you have to testify in support of gun safety bills,” said Gracie Taub, a 16-year-old sophomore at East High School. and volunteer with Student Demand in Colorado.
Lyle transferred to East High School after being punished and expelled from a high school in nearby Aurora last school year for unspecified school policy violations, Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman Lauren Snell said.
Marrero said student safety plans are being adopted in response to “past educational as well as behavioral experiences,” adding that this is a common practice in Colorado’s public schools. Officials did not provide details on why Lyle was searched daily.
But daily searches are rare, says Francie Crepeau-Hobson, a University of Colorado Denver professor who specializes in preventing school violence.
“Obviously they were worried,” Crepeaux-Hobson said. “I can’t imagine they would have done it if it wasn’t for the story of a child with a gun.”
Safety plans often follow a student’s threatening or suicidal behavior, says Christine Harms of the School Safety Resource Center in Colorado.
In response to the shooting, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed President Joe Biden’s calls for stronger gun laws, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for Congress to “do something” about gun control. .
Wednesday was also the second anniversary of the murder of 10 people at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.
Associated Press reporters Sarah Brumfield of Silver Spring, Maryland, and Matthew Brown of Billings, Montana contributed to this report.
Bedine is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on hidden issues.
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