Parents and their children packed into the Roswell Civic Center this evening to hear from school district officials about what resources were available to their children and to outline the school’s plans going forward. The meeting was not open to the media, but several parents the Journal spoke with after the meeting said many parents are concerned about their kids going back to school so soon after the shooting.
“I’m going to let her decide when to go back,” said Jennifer Patrick of her daughter, who she said was still very emotional after seeing the shooting. “…She’s broken, but getting better and better.”
The family of Mason Campbell, the suspect in the Berrendo Middle School shooting, issued a statement Wednesday saying they were heartbroken and that their remorse could not be put into words. They said the two children who were injured have been in their thoughts and prayers.
“We are horribly sad over this tragedy on so many levels,” the family stated. “We are praying that God will be with everyone who has been affected.”
The family added it will cooperate with law enforcement to “piece together how this awful tragedy occurred.”
The 12-year-old boy accused of shooting two of his fellow students at Berrendo Middle School on Tuesday was taking random shots and did not have any particular targets in mind, State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said at a news conference this afternoon.
He said the weapon, a 20-gauge pump shotgun, came from the suspect’s home. The suspect carried the gun into the school in a duffel bag, not a musical instrument case as earlier reports suggested, Kassetas said.
Kassetas would not name the suspect, but he has been identified as Mason Campbell. The suspect remains in Albuquerque, Kassetas said.
The boy had three rounds of birdshot, Kassetas said. One round went into the ceiling, another into the floor of gym and the third round was aimed at the students who were in the gymnasium stands. The distance from which the two students were shot was 12 to 15 feet, he said.
Calling the case “complex,” Kassetas said, “We found evidence it was thought-out and planned. I believe when the incident occurred it was random. The victims were random.”
The case is complicated, he said, partly because the youth’s age “puts a different spin on it from an adult offender.”
Kassetas said he believed the suspect’s parents were cooperating, although he said he had not yet gotten details from his investigators.
Gov. Susana Martinez said Kendal Sanders, 13, is in stable condition and will remain in the Lubbock hospital for a week or more.
An 11-year-old boy, whom students have identified as Nathaniel Tavarez, is still in critical condition, Martinez said.
Students who knew Mason Campbell said he was often the target of bullying by his peers at Berrendo Middle School, including one who said students would often shout “Shut up!” when he contributed in class and another who said the victim in Tuesday’s shooting was one such aggressor.
Mason Campbell, 12, was described as a boy of average height, slightly overweight, with glasses, a bowl haircut and freckles. Ryan Nunez, who took first period with Campbell, said several students in the class would insult him every time he decided to speak in class.
“He was a nice guy,” Nunez said Tuesday during a community prayer vigil. “I don’t really know why he would do that. I’m just shocked.”
Another witness, Kimberly Macias, said Campbell pushed students out of the way until he found the 11-year-old boy, who is in critical condition at a Lubbock Hospital with a gunshot wound or wounds to his face and neck.
“This kid Mason got an instrument case, and he had a shotgun in there,” Macias said at the vigil Tuesday, failing to fight back tears. “He was pushing people out of the way, and he started shooting up the place” before shooting the 11-year-old boy.
The 11-year-old boy’s family are in Lubbock with him, according to his older sister. The family is not going to release any more information about the boy until his mother is ready.
“We don’t want anything out right now. My mom will be in contact about things like this when we are ready,” the boy’s sister said in a Facebook message Wednesday. “…People that are concerned and know us can call/text us.”
Troy Smothermon, senior pastor at a Roswell church, also made the trip to Lubbock to pray with the victims’ families. He was still praying with them as of 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Even though Berrendo Middle School is closed on a cold morning here in Roswell, at least half a dozen students have arrived, shaken, alongside their parents to receive counseling services the school is offering. Gov. Susana Martinez is expected to give a news briefing, along with other Roswell and law enforcement officials, around 1:30 p.m. today, though a Martinez spokesman said that could be delayed as the governor speaks to parents and teachers at the school.
New Mexico State Police have not confirmed the motive.
The Chaves County Sheriff’s office has released 911 calls from the January 14, 2013 shooting at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell. An edited version of the calls is below.
An an 11-year-old boy who was a victim of the shooting at Berrendo Middle School was still in critical condition at a Lubbock hospital Wednesday morning, according to a hospital spokesperson. The boy was reportedly shot in the face and the neck. A 13-year-old girl, who was shot in the shoulder, remained in satisfactory condition Wednesday morning.
— The following article appeared on page A1 of the Wednesday, January 7, 2013 edition of the Albuquerque Journal.
10 seconds of terror
by By Jon Swedien and Patrick Lohmann / Journal Staff Writers and Heidi Toth / Special to the Journal
ROSWELL – Ten seconds.
That’s how long it took a 12-year-old Berrendo Middle School student to enter the school’s gym full of students, pull out a .20-gauge shotgun, start firing, put the gun down and be apprehended.
And in that time, two fellow students were seriously injured and a New Mexico town became the latest victim of a tragic school shooting.
A teacher who was in the gymnasium talked the boy into putting down the weapon, officials said, and a State Police lieutenant who happened to be at the school dropping off his child then took the boy into custody.
Both victims, an 11-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl, were airlifted to a Lubbock hospital. The boy, whose name has not been released, was in critical condition Tuesday night. He had undergone two surgeries and had injuries to his face and neck, Gov. Susana Martinez said during an evening news conference. The girl, Kendal Sanders, was in satisfactory condition, the governor said.
The suspect, Mason Campbell, was transferred to a psychiatric hospital in Albuquerque, following a court hearing Tuesday.
State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said at an evening news conference that the suspect allegedly sawed off the gun’s wood stock, put it in a bag and smuggled it into the school. He said he didn’t know where the gun came from, but added that it was “definitely concealed and covertly smuggled into that school.”
Kassetas also said police had “preliminary information” that the suspect had warned several students not to go to school on Tuesday.
“It was a harrowing experience,” said John Masterson, who was identified as the teacher who talked the suspect into putting down the weapon. “All I can say was the staff there did a great job.”
Albuquerque attorney Jason Bowles, who is related to Campbell, said, “Our family, right now, is prayerful and thinking of the kids that were hurt and their families and praying that God will oversee this situation.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are for those kids that were hurt,” he told KOAT-TV.
Albuquerque attorney Robert Gorence, who is representing Campbell, said the boy’s family will be issuing a written statement today.
More than 1,000 people packed into the Roswell Civic Center on Tuesday evening to seek comfort from eight of the town’s senior priests, who reassured the audience that they would pray for the victims, their families and everyone in the small New Mexico town. Some students could be seen ducking out of the auditorium in tears, and parents and others could be seen in long embraces while those gathered sang church hymns.
“It takes situations like these that are very difficult to bring us together,” said Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell.
The shooting occurred around 7:30 a.m., when about 500 students were gathered in the school gym.
Eighth-grader Odiee Carranza said she was walking into the gym when a boy bumped into her as he rushed past. She told him to be careful, and he apologized and continued on. He ran to the gym, where he pulled a gun out of a band instrument case and fired at the students.
Another student, Gabbie Vasquez, said she knew the suspect. “He really didn’t talk to nobody. He’s quiet and kind of awkward,” Vasquez said.
Kassetas said State Police Lt. Gary Smith was dropping off his child just as the school principal was locking the front doors after the shooting. The principal asked for the officer’s help.
Kassetas said Masterson, an eighth-grade social studies teacher, had already talked the boy into putting down the gun before Smith could respond.
Masterson had his back to the suspect when he heard a gunshot, which he first mistook for a firecracker, the State Police chief said. The suspect fired at least twice more, Kassetas said, before turning the gun on Masterson. Masterson spoke with the boy, who set the weapon down and put his hands up, Kassetas said. Smith took the boy into custody.
“He’s an amazing man,” Martinez said of Masterson after meeting the teacher in the living room of his Roswell home.
Roswell Superintendent Tom Burris estimated the shooting was over within 10 seconds. He said the school’s faculty had participated in “active shooter” training, and they responded appropriately Tuesday. Chaves County Sheriff James Coon said students also had had training in an “active shooter” class.
“In the 10 seconds that transpired from the time of this thing starting until the teacher had control of the weapon, there was no cowardice,” Burris said. “There was protection for our kids. Everyone acted and did their duties today at Berrendo Middle School.”
Martinez said at an earlier news conference in Roswell that a staff member received very minor injuries but declined medical care because he wanted to stay and help. Martinez praised the school staff and law enforcement.
“Please don’t forget this community is a strong community, they will pull together,” Martinez said.
A student who witnessed the shooting said a male student shot the boy twice in the face and shot the girl in the arm.
Brooke Linthicum, spokeswoman for the Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, said two students were stabilized there and then transported to Lubbock.
After the shooting, students at the school were bused to a nearby mall at about 10 a.m., where hundreds of anxious parents were waiting to pick them up.
The children were immediately ushered inside. Police then called out the names of the kids, a few at a time, for parents to enter the mall and retrieve them. Parents and children left the mall, hugging each other and embracing other family members who had waited outside.
Fawna Hendricks, whose son is a seventh-grader at Berrendo, said she heard about the shooting on the radio.
“Basically I jumped outta bed, threw on clothes, panicked,” Hendricks said in the parking lot of the Roswell Mall where hundreds of parents were gathered.
Hendricks said her son’s teacher allowed him to call her. “He’s scared. Most of the kids up there are pretty scared,” she said.
Sixth-grade student Anyssa Vegara said she was talking to a security guard when she heard the shot.
“I turned around and all I saw was someone on the floor with their arm bleeding,” Vegara said.
She said the security guard ran to assist the injured student, and school officials ordered all the students to their classrooms.
Eventually, she was able to text her mother, Monica Vegara.
“From the time hearing about it, until the time she texted, it was a nightmare,” Vegara said.
William Vegara, Anyssa’s father, said it was nerve-wracking. “You never know if it was your kid or not.”
‘Far too often’
Martinez told reporters at the news conference that she is making all resources available to investigate the shooting, and state agencies like the Public Education Department and the Children, Youth and Families Department will provide counseling services to anyone who wants it in the coming days.
The school has undergone more than one active-shooter training, Burris said, including one as recently as the end of the 2013 semester.
About 660 students attended Berrendo Middle School last year, according to enrollment data posted by the state Public Education Department.
Burris said the school would be closed today and reopen on Thursday.
Roswell Mayor Del Jurney asked the nation to keep the victims and the city in their thoughts and prayers.
“Crimes like this are occurring far too often across this nation,” he said.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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