Students have told their parents they and their friends heard shots fired in the hallway of Martin Luther King Jr. High School Monday morning. A student’s mother, Shanike Smith, said she had heard “three or four” loud bangs, followed by a woman yelling, and a man crying “My son is dead.”
Before the early school dismissal, Smith spoke with her oldest son, a sophomore, to make sure he was OK, but he said he didn’t remember hearing any shots. She was told there had been shots fired, which went off twice.
“If we would have been notified earlier, this incident would have been averted,” Smith said, adding that a police officer and two students made the decision to let everyone get out of the building.
“How can you not know what happened? It’s been chaotic, and something needs to be done differently,” Smith said.
Morgan County District Attorney Steve Mitchell said school officials did call the police and the two responding officers arrived within a minute of receiving the 911 call.
“School employees or faculty did not immediately recognize that there was an assault taking place and that these students were armed,” Mitchell said.
Michael Pierson’s parents, Dan and Margaret Pierson, are both employed as school psychologists in Morgan County, school officials said. The district has a pre-sentencing investigation team to help ensure a juvenile offender acts out appropriately once released from incarceration, and there are several intervention plans for teenagers involved in disruptive behaviors, district administrators said.
When asked whether school authorities should have made an effort to directly reach the parents of the shooter as he was taken to the hospital, Pierson’s father told a Denver TV station that he should have gotten a phone call before his son took the lives of classmates.
“I did hear that when he was rushed into surgery and when he said that he might not make it, but I also heard the mom, he said the mom broke down,” Pierson told KDVR. “The police called me and told me that he had passed away.”
Related Image Expand / Contract Parker County Sheriff’s Office via Associated Press
Police said the shooting was brought to the attention of the students when they heard gunfire.
After Pierson shot his way into a classroom, a baseball coach intervened and was hit in the arm, resulting in him not being able to take much of a stand, the school’s basketball coach Steve Starcher said.
“He went out to confront this perpetrator because that’s what the coaches are supposed to do. My heart goes out to that man,” Starcher said.
Pierson had another confrontation with the baseball coach before shooting himself, police said.
Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kim Nalley said at a news conference Monday afternoon that Pierson will be judged by “his actions.”
“We do not look at a person’s disability. They come in all colors, and we look at the person,” Nalley said.
The AP contributed to this report.