WAUKESHA, Wis. — A city police officer inside Waukesha South High School in Wisconsin shot a 17-year-old student who pulled a gun in a classroom and refused to drop it, according to officials.
The suspect — taken into custody — was the only person injured in the incident, police said.
It was a terrifying morning for students and their parents, many of whom raced to the school after receiving an email announcing the lockdown.
Teachers and staff also reacted quickly as students hunkered down.
“It was just really scary,” said Alexis Grady, a senior.
At a news conference, Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack said a male student was reported to have brought a handgun to school and was in possession of it. The Waukesha police officer responded and secured the classroom while getting other students to safety.
Other Waukesha police officers and Waukesha County sheriff’s deputies arrived to the scene and began “dialogue with the suspect in an attempt to deescalate the situation,” Jack said.
“The suspect would not remove his hands from his pockets and continued to ignore officers’ commands,” Jack said. “The suspect removed his handgun from his waistband and pointed it at the officers. An officer was forced to discharge his firearm, striking the suspect.”
Officers provided lifesaving medical attention to the student, Jack said, as “remaining students were evacuated from the classroom and the school was put on lockdown.”
Jack said the officer who fired his gun is an 11-year veteran of the department. The Milwaukee area investigative team, with the City of Greenfield Police Department taking the lead, will conduct the investigation.
Andrew Oresick, 16, a high school sophomore, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of the USA TODAY Network that he was in the hallway outside of his Spanish class with his teacher and other students, hanging posters.
“These kids start running out from the classroom directly across from us, and one of them goes, ‘He’s got a gun,” he said.
“With the teacher being out there, I was glad she was out there, she just got us into the classroom right away, so we were in lockdown before they even announced it.”
Oresick said about 20 minutes later “we heard three gunshots, shook the whole room — it was one then two directly right after it.”
Sophomore Kilie Gall was in the library at the time when other students came in and reported there was someone with a gun in the hallway.
She said from the library, students could hear a “thud” and someone said it was a door, but they later learned it was gunfire. Gall said she thought there were three shots fired.
‘A superintendent’s worst nightmare’
According to emergency radio traffic, the first Waukesha Fire Department units at the scene reported to dispatchers that the patient was conscious, alert and breathing. A fire commander at the scene told other arriving fire/EMS crews that the patient sustained “relatively minor wounds” and that no additional emergency responders were needed.
Emergency radio traffic indicated a command post was set up inside the school.
Police squad cars were blocking all the entrances at the high school and other streets around the school were shut down. Parents gathered outside the school, at Roberta and Tenny avenues, after word started to spread.
“This is clearly a superintendent’s worst nightmare,” Waukesha Schools Superintendent Todd Gray said.
Gray said the school will resume Tuesday and additional resources will be available.
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly called it a “terrifying day.”
But he added that he is proud of how the school district, police department and fire department responded.
The incident came just days after deputy superintendent Joe Koch emailed district parents and staff Nov. 27, urging them to remind students “that threats, both direct and indirect, towards our students and schools will not be tolerated, even if intended as a ‘joke.’ “
The email didn’t say whether a specific threat prompted Koch’s reminder to parents, but cited “recent events in Southeastern Wisconsin regarding school threats.”
Reaction in Madison
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said Monday the incident was “a grim reminder that this can happen anywhere, but I do not accept — nor should we accept — that this is an inevitable reality for our kids, our communities, our state, or our country.”
“My heart is with the students, educators, and staff of Waukesha South High School and the entire Waukesha community as they mourn and endure the trauma of today’s shooting,” said Evers, a former school teacher and superintendent. “It’s gut-wrenching that our kids wondered whether this was a drill or it was real — our kids shouldn’t have to fear for their life in our classrooms or at school, and no parent should have to send their kid off to school in the morning worrying about whether or not they’ll come home.”
Evers earlier this year called on lawmakers to take up legislation aimed at preventing anyone considered threatening from obtaining a firearm, but the Republicans who control the Legislature refused citing concerns over due process.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said Monday’s incident was a reminder “that more action is needed to prevent gun violence and keep Wisconsin children safe.”
Former Gov. Scott Walker successfully lobbied lawmakers to take up legislation that provided $100 million in grants to schools to beef up security. Evers wants to expand background checks on firearm sales and implement a new so-called red flag law.
Contributing: Jim Riccioli, Bill Glauber, Joe Taschler, Talis Shelbourne, Jesse Garza, Bob Dohr, Jordyn Noennig and Debi Eimer of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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