Two students were fatally shot at Aztec High School in New Mexico, police say. The gunman is also dead. The shooting occurred about 8:15 a.m. local time on Thursday, December 7.
Shortly after reports of shots fire were reported, Lt. Kyle Lincoln from the San Juan County Sheriff Department told KRQE News 13 that police were conducting a full sweep of the school. Police have since completed the sweep and have confirmed that there was only one suspect and he is deceased. Few details about the shooting have been released. Authorities earlier said the gunman was a student.
“Any witness of this shooting are asked to call the following hotline: 505-334-6622; OR PM the SJCSO on their Facebook page (http://facebook.com/sjcso ). Ask to speak with a detective as a witness,” the New Mexico State Police recently tweeted.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Police Have Identified the Suspect as William Atchison
Police say that there was one suspect, 21-year-old William Atchison. He entered the building just after the school day commenced and opened fire.
Police have confirmed that Atchison committed suicide at the scene.
San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen said that Atchison had a detailed plan for holding a classroom hostage, which investigators discovered on a flash drive on his person. Christesen described the attack as a “cowardly act” that was designed to “create as much carnage” as possible.
Atchison had reportedly dressed like a student in order to infiltrate the school campus, a fact that had initially led investigators to believe that the suspect was a student at Aztec High School.
2. Two Students Were Shot & Killed
Police confirmed that two students were shot and killed in this morning’s incident. Authorities have identified these two students as Casey Marquez and Francisco Fernandez.
“It’s tragic when our children are harmed in violent ways, especially on school campuses. We express our condolences to those families who have been harmed. Our prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy, and everyone throughout San Juan County. We are asking for prayers for these families,” President Russell Begaye on The Navajo Nation said in a press release.
Despite reports that 15 people were injured in the shooting, New Mexico State Police have said that “no other injuries” outside the three deceased (two students, one suspect) had been reported.
Below is a video of an unofficial press conference held around 9:20 a.m. local time.
3. Schools in the Area Were on Lockdown, But Authorities Say That There Is No Threat to the Public
Not long after the shooting was reported, schools in the area took the proper precautions to ensure the safety of their students and faculty. Both Bloomfield and Farmington High Schools were placed on lockdown, but that lockdown has since been lifted.
Bloomfield Police Department shared the following message on Facebook this morning:
“We are aware that there is an active shooter at Aztec High School. We do have officers located at all of the schools in Bloomfield and they are all on lock down. Parents are advised to please stay away from all of the schools until further notice.”
Farmington Municipal Schools released the following statement on their Facebook page:
“Farmington Municipal Schools has been asked to enter into a preventive lockdown by local law enforcement due to an incident in Aztec NM. We have no reason to think there is any threat in Farmington at this time but we are taking this advance action in order to secure all of our schools. Your students safety is our primary concern. Thank you.”
There is no longer a threat to the community, according to authorities.
4. The Other Students Were Taken by Bus to McGee Park & Released to Their Families
Aztec High School is located at 500 E Chaco Street, in Aztec, New Mexico. Parents who have children at the school have been told to pick them up at McGee Park at noon. School buses will transport students there. Parents are asked to “be patient” as they wait for their children to arrive at McGee Park.
“I heard gunshots and screaming,” Aztec freshman Caidyn Atwood told the Farmington Daily Times. “They just said, ‘there’s a lockdown, and this is not a drill.’ It was the scariest moment of my life.”
About 900 students attend the school.
5. Vigils Will Take Place This Afternoon & This Evening & Grief Counselors Will Be Made Available
There will be a prayer service this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. local time at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Aztec. A second vigil will be held at the Aztec High School football field at 8 p.m., according to the Farmington Daily Times.
Aztec High School will be closed on Friday.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez was headed to Aztec.
In a statement, the state’s Attorney General said, “Our hearts break for the victims and their families. We pray for the survivors, and are grateful to the brave first responders for their heroic actions on the scene. We have offered Office of the Attorney General resources to support the victims, the Four Corners community, and first responders during this horrific tragedy.”