Tyrone Smith, Waukesha South Student: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Tyrone Smith was the student who was shot by Waukesha Police Sgt. Brady Esser and survived to face criminal charges for allegedly refusing to put down a pellet gun that looked like a handgun at Waukesha South High School Monday, December 2, 2019.

Smith is now 18. It had only been a few days since officials at the school sent an email to staff and parents about school violence, social media behavior and threats, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Deputy superintendent Joe Koch emailed district parents and staff Nov. 27, telling parents and teachers to talk to their students. He also asked parents to check their children’s backpacks before school. On the next school day, Smith had a pellet gun in a classroom and refused to put it down, according to police.

Waukesha Police Sgt. Brady Esser was identified as the police officer who shot Smith. Students described their horror to the newspaper and on Twitter, saying they were hiding in classrooms and heard a series of gunshots.

Waukesha, Wisconsin is a suburb of Milwaukee.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Tyrone Smith Had Recently Returned Home From Foster Care When he Took Pellet Guns That Resembled Handguns to School

Tyrone Smith’s mom told TMJ 4 her son had been in foster care before the shooting, and recently returned home. She spoke to reporters December 3, 2019. At that time, she said Smith was still in the hospital recovering from three bullet wounds. He was shot in the leg, wrist, and underarm. She told reporters she expected he would be taken to jail after he was released from the hospital.

Smith was shot by a school resources officer who rushed to a classroom at Waukesha South High School where officials said Smith was holding a gun he refused to put down. Smith brought the pellet gun to school that day. He refused to comply with officers’ commands, and was shot, according to police. Police rushed to give first aid to Smith. His injuries were not life-threatening, and he was taken to a hospital for treatment.

“We have him at gunpoint,” an officer said on the police scanner. “He won’t take his hands out of his pocket.”

There were no other suspects in the shooting, police said.

“This is an isolated incident. We are not seeking anybody else we have no other persons of interest. We are in the investigative stage right now as the scene is stabilized,” Waukesha Police wrote on Twitter Monday morning.

Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack said in a press conference Monday evening no officers and no other students were injured in the shooting.

Waukesha Police Department issued a statement, which said, in part:

On Monday December 2, 2019 at approximately 10:07 am a student reported that a male student was reported to have brought a handgun to school and was currently in possession of this handgun. The School Resource Officer immediately responded to the classroom. The SRO made efforts to secure the classroom by getting other students to safety. Other officers responded to the school and began dialogue with the suspect in an attempt to deescalate the situation. The suspect would not remove his hands from his pocket and continued to ignore officers’ commands. The suspect removed the handgun from his waistband and pointed it at
the officers.

An officer was forced to discharge his firearm striking the suspect. Officers immediately provided lifesaving medical attention. The remaining students were evacuated from the classroom and the school was put on LOCK DOWN.

A firearm was recovered. The suspect is a 17-year-old male. He was transported to the hospital and is in stable condition.

The case is under investigation by an independent police department, but Waukesha Police said in a statement they believe they officer acted appropriately.

“Initial information shows that the officer acted within state statute and department policy, and fulfilled the Mission of the Waukesha Police Department, ‘A Pledge to Serve with Integrity, Honor and Courage,'” the statement said.


2. Tyrone Smith Was Shot When Police Said He Refused to Put Down a Pellet Gun That Looked Like a Handgun & Was Charged After he Was Released From the Hospital

Tyrone was in stable condition after he was shot by a school resource officer at Waukesha South High School Monday, December 2, 2019. Officers immediately rushed to give first aid to Smith and he was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition, according to a statement from the Waukesha Police Department.

Police did not say in the written statement how many times the student was shot, but students told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they heard three gunshots. Smith was the only person who was injured during the incident.

The statement said:

An officer was forced to discharge his firearm striking the suspect. Officers immediately provided lifesaving medical attention. The remaining students were evacuated from the classroom and the school was put on LOCK DOWN.

A firearm was recovered. The suspect is a 17-year-old male. He was transported to the hospital and is in stable condition.

The officer is an 11-year veteran of the police department. No officer or other students were injured during this incident.


3. Tyrone Smith Brought the Pellet Gun to School Shortly After Officials Wrote a Notice to Parents About Checking Backpacks & School Violence

Waukesha Schools deputy superintendent Joe Koch sent an email to parents and staff within the district just days before the shooting, warning about threats, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The email went out on Wednesday, November 27. It said that parents and school staff should remind students “that threats, both direct and indirect, towards our students and schools will not be tolerated, even if intended as a ‘joke.'”

It also asked parents to check their student’s backpacks “to ensure that the items in the backpack are appropriate for school,” and encouraged parents to talk to their children about their behavior on social media. The email was prompted by “recent events in Southeastern Wisconsin regarding school threats.”


4. Waukesha South Students Described Their Horror When they Heard a Student Had a Gun at School

Waukesha South High School students heard an alert Monday morning calling for a lockdown. They ran to their classrooms and hid. Some reported hearing gunshots, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

One student wrote on Twitter, “as another student from Waukesha South, u don’t know the fear we were all going through. I didn’t know if I’d be able to make it out alive. We were ALL terrified. Yes, this was another school shooting and instead of putting your opinion on it, you should send your love & prayers.”

Another student wrote on Twitter, “Waukesha South student here, we’re all shaken up but we’re slowly going home. Love all of you guys, stay safe.”

“I can’t believe that happened I never thought I would experienced something like that I was really scared when I was hiding,” one student said in a reply to the tweet.

The first student responded, “I’m pretty sure for a while we all were in shock and doubt.”

A mother in the school district told TMJ4 that seeing her son and knowing he was unharmed was an experience comparable to giving birth.

“As a mother it was kind of like giving birth all over again,” she said. “The excitement of knowing that he was fine.”


5. Wisconsin Lawmakers Were Quick to Respond Online About Shooting at School

Wisconsin lawmakers were quick to release statements commending the school resource officer for keeping students safe and expressing their concern for the students. Some officials used the opportunity to talk about gun control.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers wrote, “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. I am grateful for our educators and first responders who worked quickly to keep our kids safe and ensure no one else was injured. We are continuing to learn more details about the situation this morning, but what I can say is 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. Wisconsinites believe in helping each other in times of need, so I know we will come together to do everything we can to support the Waukesha community as they begin to heal. Today is 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.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul wrote on Twitter, “No student should have to go through a day like the one that students at Waukesha South went through today. And no parent should have to go through a day like the one those students’ parents had today. My thoughts are with the Waukesha community and the Waukesha School District. Our Office of School Safety has reached out to offer assistance to the school district. A school resource officer and first responders helped prevent this event from potentially becoming even more tragic than it was. We thank them for their bravery and their service.”

State Representative Jodi Emerson wrote on Twitter, “I am thinking about the students and families of Waukesha South High School. We have seen school shootings become routine. They don’t have to be. I am ready to pass common sense legislation to make our communities and schools safer.”

Senator Tammy Baldwin wrote, “We are all grateful to the Waukesha South High School staff and the first responders for their quick action today to keep students safe. Please join me in sending our support to the Waukesha community.”

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