(CNN) — Students at a Michigan high school described terrifying scenes in which they erected barricades with desks to secure doors and escaped through windows during a shooting that left three dead and eight others injured.
“We heard two shots and after that my teacher ran into the classroom, locked it, we barricaded and then covered the windows and hid,” senior Aiden Page told Anderson Cooper, de CNN.
“We took calculators, we took scissors in case the shooter came in and we had to attack him,” he said, describing how the shooter was so close that a bullet went through one of the desks he and other students used to block the door.
Students set up barricades to arrest 15-year-old shooter in Michigan
Officers who came to the scene at the Oxford High School on Tuesday also made split-second decisions as the scale of horror loomed after the mass shooting. The suspect – a 15-year-old high school sophomore – was detained without incident two to three minutes after authorities responded to the shooting, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.
One of the three murdered students died in a police vehicle when an aide decided to transport 16-year-old Tate Myre due to the “severity of his injury,” Bouchard said during a news conference Tuesday night. “Sadly, that child died in the vehicle,” he said.
Two other students killed in the shooting were identified by investigators as 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana and 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin.
Eight other people, seven students and a teacher, were shot, Bouchard said. Three of them are in critical condition with gunshot wounds, including a 14-year-old girl who is on a ventilator after being operated on.
A 14-year-old minor is in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the jaw and head, Bouchard said. Three students are stable and the teacher who was shot has been discharged.
The suspect, who has not been identified by police, is being held at Oakland County Children’s Village, a juvenile detention center. He was placed on suicide watch and was being checked every 15 minutes, Oakland County Chief David Coulter said.
Quick action by police “literally saved lives,” says sheriff
The weapon that officers say was used in the shooting, a Sig Sauer SP2022 pistol, which fires 9mm ammunition, was purchased by the suspect’s father on November 26, four days before shots rang out in the school, Bouchard said.
The suspect’s parents hired an attorney and instructed the teen not to speak to investigators, Sub-Sheriff Michael G. McCabe said.
Two 15-round magazines were found at the scene, Bouchard said, noting that at least 12 rounds were fired, Bouchard said.
Bouchard praised the work of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies that responded Tuesday, saying their coordination and prior training in active shooter situations proved invaluable.
Officers were dispatched to the school at 12:52 p.m. and the suspect was taken into custody within three minutes of his arrival, Bouchard said.
As officers headed to the school, they encountered the suspect, who raised his hands, Bouchard said. The officers took his gun and took the suspect into custody.
The gun was loaded with seven rounds, Bouchard said. “I think they literally saved lives by arresting the suspect with a loaded firearm still in the building.”
A search warrant was executed at the suspect’s home, McCabe said. Bouchard said authorities seized a phone and are examining other items.
Although Bouchard said authorities were not aware of elements prior to the event that drew attention, they are investigating photos of the weapon posted on social media by the suspect.
Students went out through a window to get to safety, according to the video
As hundreds of police officers operated across campus, students and faculty resorted to the tactics they have learned in active shooter drills to protect themselves.
“This district has been very good at training its staff and students in active shooter situations,” Deputy Commissioner McCabe said Tuesday.
Freshman Mark Kluska said his teacher, Moises Cortez, performed immediately after a closure was announced over the school’s loudspeakers.
“He closed the door and put like a metal stop so that no one could kick in the door,” Kluska told CNN. “After turning off the lights, he told us to go to the corner because this might not be a drill and he wanted to be safe.”
A video recorded by Kluska shows students climbing out of a first-floor window into a snow-covered area and then running to safety.
Several people were injured as they hurried out of the school, Bouchard said. Most were treated and discharged in a nearby area.
Donna Sanders told CNN that her youngest grandson was switching classes when he heard the shots. He told her that he and others ran through an exit door and headed to a nearby grocery store to escape.
“He was able to run to safety with others while his brother was trapped inside,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ daughter, Vontysha Pittman, said her oldest son sought safety in a classroom with a teacher and other students. He hid under a desk and called his father to tell him what was happening, he said.
“They are both safe at home, but they are devastated. We need prayers and not just for ourselves, but for all Oxford families,” Sanders said.
Senior Aiden Page told CNN’s Cooper that his classroom was closed for an hour and described the entire experience as “insane” as he contemplated whether he would survive the experience.
“The first thing that crossed my mind was, ‘Is this really happening? I’m going to text my family, tell them I love them just in case, if I die.’ Then when everything calmed down for one second, I was able to catch my breath and rationalize things, “he said.
“Today there are no students or staff injured”
Prosecutors are weighing the evidence and will decide whether to charge the suspect as an adult.
Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald said in a statement Tuesday that her office has “begun the process of receiving information about the investigation” of the shooting. “Our intention is to review it thoroughly and promptly issue the corresponding charges.”
As investigators track the school for evidence, community leaders said they will work to heal the broken sense of security in the coming days.
“Today, there are no students or staff injured. Everyone in the Oxford community, Oakland County, and frankly the United States has been impacted by this tragedy, said Oakland County Executive Coulter.” Tragedies how this destroys our security … a security and a peace that should rightfully be ours in a place like a school. “
“I think this is every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, adding that school shootings are “a uniquely American problem that we have to address.”
“My heart goes out to the families. This is an unimaginable tragedy. I hope that we can all rise to the occasion and embrace the families, the affected children and the staff of the school and of this community,” Whitmer said.
With input from Laura Ly, Caroll Alvarado, Patrick Cornell, Tanika Gray, and Alex Harring.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism