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2 students shot at Virginia high school; suspect in custody

Sara Gregory, Jessica Nolte, Peter Dujardin and Lisa Vernon Sparks, The Virginian-Pilot on

Published in News & Features

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Two teenagers were shot Monday morning at Heritage High School, Newport News police said.

The teens are both 17 years old, a boy and a girl, police Chief Steve Drew said in an afternoon press conference. They were taken to the hospital with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening.

The boy was shot on the side of his face and the girl was shot in her leg, Drew said.

At least two others were taken to the hospital — one with a sprained wrist and another who suffered an asthma attack — with injuries that happened as students were rushing out of the building.

The first call for help came at 11:38 a.m., Drew said.

There was one shooter, Drew said, who has been taken into custody. Drew would not say whether the suspect is a student but said investigators believe he knew the victims. A press release from the police identified the suspect only as a male juvenile.

Police were still sweeping the building two hours later, to make sure everyone was out.

Students sheltered in place at first, Superintendent George Parker said, then were sent to the tennis courts, where their families could meet them.

Parker said counselors were talking with students.

“No superintendent, no teacher or principal would want to ever go through this situation,” Parker said. “Just seeing the faces of our students and how afraid they were under these circumstances and our staff who were traumatized. … No one would want to go through these circumstances.”

Classes at Heritage are canceled Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. No decision has been made about the rest of the week. Other Newport News schools will operate normally.

 

About 1,200 students attend Heritage High, which is in the Southeast Community in Newport News. That includes about 900 high-schoolers and 300 middle-schoolers from Huntington Middle School. There are about 165 staff at the school.

The scene outside the school was “chaotic” at times, Parker said, but he praised students and staff for how they handled the situation. Several people outside the school streamed live video of the aftermath, showing families searching for their children and at least one person being treated.

A freshman said he was leaving the cafeteria and walking up the stairs back to class with a friend when he heard what sounded like one gunshot.

“We all just looked in confusion and then we heard three continuous shots,” Devin Gray said. “We all ran.”

The 14-year-old said he tried an emergency exit door first but it was locked, so then he ran to a classroom and hid under a desk with about 20 others. Gray said they blocked the door with bookshelves.

Another student, senior Dominic Banks, said he thought the first shot was a classroom door being slammed. Like Gray, he was leaving the cafeteria when he heard the shots. Banks said students were all running to find somewhere safe. He was able to run outside.

It’s very disappointing,” Banks said. “Everybody in here’s life just got put in danger over one student wanting to bring a gun to the school.”

All athletic activities were canceled Monday and until further notice, Heritage High Athletic Director Michael Gardner said.

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(The Virginian-Pilot staff writers Lyndon German, Sierra Jenkins and Marty O’Brien contributed reporting.)

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