The gun violence in the nation’s schools visited Atlanta yesterday, when a student shot a 14-year-old classmate in the back of the neck with a handgun, apparently after a dispute, sending a wave of fear and panic through parents and the school community. The victim was not seriously harmed and was released last night from a hospital.
After multiple shots were fired, the shooter at Price Middle School was subdued by an off-duty police officer working security at the school. The unidentified officer made the student drop his weapon and took him into custody. The officer’s response may add fodder to the controversial proposal that an armed guard be placed at every school in the country, which is something being studied by lawmakers in Washington in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December.
News reports identified the victim as Telvis Douglas, whose mother told a local television station in Atlanta that the bullet went through some tissue in the back of her son’s neck and came out. She said her son told her he was in between classes when another student he recognized approached him, started “talking smack” and pulled out a gun. She said her son turned to run and was shot from behind in the courtyard.
Sources within Atlanta Public Schools told WSB-TV that after the shooting, the suspect began shooting randomly at students running away, emptying his clip, but that hasn’t been confirmed.
The alarm of parents was compounded when the school’s 400 students were kept on lockdown for more than two hours after the 1:50 p.m. shooting and parents weren’t allowed to see them.
A teacher also was apparently injured, receiving minor cuts while running after the shooting took place, but authorities had no further details.
Police spokesman Carlos Campos said the wounded boy was taken “alert, conscious and breathing” to Grady Memorial Hospital. Grady spokeswoman Denise Simpson said the teen had been discharged from the hospital by Thursday night.
According to Campos, charges against the shooter were pending. His name was withheld because he is a minor.
While the incident in southeast Atlanta might add to the debate about armed guards at the nation’s schools, it also raises a question about the use of metal detectors. Atlanta Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis said Price Middle does have metal detectors.
“The obvious question is how did this get past a metal detector?” Davis asked. “That’s something we do not know yet.”
Hours after the shooting, as parents waited anxiously, children were loaded into several school buses and brought to a church about a half block away. There, parents tried to board the buses, police tried to stop them, then officers relented and screamed, “Let them off!” according to an AP report.
James Bolton said he was at work when his sister called to tell him somebody had been shot at his son’s school. He left work and was in the crowd of parents swarming the buses.
“Move, I see my son, I see mine!” he said, running up to hug his son, James Bolton Jr. “As long as I got this one back, I’m OK,” he told the AP reporter, holding his son’s head against his chest in the crowd of parents frantically searching for their children.
The boy said he was in class when an official came on the school intercom to announce the building was under lockdown — but the official didn’t say why.
“They told us we had to be quiet,” Bolton told the AP. “They said something went on in the courtyard.” But the boy was unaware that anyone had been shot until a reporter asked him about it.
Parents complained about how long it took for authorities to let them reunite with their kids, and Superintendent Davis said he was sympathetic to their complaints. Although he said emergency procedures were followed, district officials still would meet Friday to review the response.
In a statement after the shooting, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed condemned gun violence.
“Gun violence in and around our schools is simply unconscionable and must end,” Reed said. “Too many young people are being harmed, and too many families are suffering from unimaginable and unnecessary grief.”