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Roswell shooting planned, victims random, police chief says

Students and parents at Berrendo Middle school in Roswell
Students and parents arrive at Berrendo Middle School Wednesday morning, a day after a seventh-grade student shot two other students in the school gynmasium. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
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- Thursday morning update: Roswell students return to class two days after school shooting
 

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

ROSWELL – The 12-year-old boy accused of shooting two of his fellow students at Berrendo Middle School on Tuesday was shooting randomly and did not have any particular targets in mind, State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said Wednesday.

He said the weapon, a 20-gauge pump shotgun, came from the suspect’s home. The stock had been sawed off, and the suspect carried the gun into the school in a duffel bag.

State Police Chief Pete Kassetas

State Police Chief Pete Kassetas talks about Tuesday’s shooting at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Those were among new details of Tuesday’s school shooting that emerged Wednesday, with Kassetas’ description differing from several students’ reports that they believed the victims had been targeted.

The 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday evening released a petition charging the suspect, Mason Campbell, with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Campbell remains in Albuquerque, where he was brought after Tuesday’s shooting for a psychiatric evaluation.

Due to his age, state law prevents him from being tried as an adult.

The 11-year-old boy who was shot is still in critical condition at a Lubbock hospital. Family members have asked that his name not be released yet.

A 13-year-old girl, identified by family as Kendal Sanders, is in satisfactory condition at the same hospital.

Kassetas said the suspect had three rounds of birdshot. One round went into the ceiling, another into the floor of the gym, and the third round was aimed at the students who were in the gymnasium stands. He said the two students were shot from a distance of 12 to 15 feet.

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.”

Also Wednesday, Campbell’s parents, Jim and Jennifer Campbell, and grandparents Robert and Nancy Bowles issued a public statement saying their “constant thoughts” and “fervent prayers” were with the children injured in Tuesday’s shooting and their families. The statement said the family will cooperate with law enforcement during the investigation.

“We are horribly sad over this tragedy on so many levels. We are praying that God will be with everyone who has been affected. For all of the anguish that many suffered yesterday, our family offers our heartfelt condolences and remorse in words that we cannot fully express,” the statement read.

“We love our young son and grandson dearly as does everyone in his extended family. His whole family is heart broken as are many others in our tight-knit community in Roswell.”

Bullying?

State Police have not confirmed a motive for the shooting, but some students said Campbell was sometimes the target of bullying. One said students would often shout “Shut up!” when he contributed in class.

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 when he decided to speak in class.

“He was a nice guy,” Nunez said. “I don’t really know why he would do that. I’m just shocked.”

Another witness, Kimberly Macias, said Campbell appeared to be pushing students out of the way until he found the 11-year-old boy, who is in critical condition at a Lubbock hospital with injuries to his face and neck.

“He was pushing people out of the way,” Macias said at a vigil Tuesday, trying but failing to fight back tears, “and he started shooting up the place” before shooting the 11-year-old boy.

Andrea Leon, 13, said Mason played percussion in the school band.

“He always tried to make us laugh. He wasn’t very funny, but we still laughed with him,” she said Wednesday at her parents’ restaurant.

Katelyn Bolin, a longtime friend of the 11-year-old boy, could hardly finish a thought without breaking down at Tuesday night’s vigil when talking about her friend. She described him as loyal, opinionated and an all-around good person.

“He was loud and not afraid to be himself,” said Bolin, through tears. “He was an amazing friend.”

Troy Smothermon, a senior pastor at a Roswell church and neighbor of the Campbell family, said he can’t think of anything that would have compelled Mason to do what he’s accused of doing. He said he loves the Campbell family and that his boys played sports in the past with Mason.

Smothermon said he hoped people would focus on the problem that men are not being raised in this society to deal properly with their emotions.

“We gotta put a stop to this in our country. We gotta get involved,” he said Wednesday. “We’re not raising a group of young men who know how to handle problems.”

Recovering

The 11-year-old victim’s family is in Lubbock with him, according to a post his older sister made on Facebook.

“We don’t want anything out right now. My mom will be in contact about things like this when we are ready,” she wrote in the Facebook message. “… People that are concerned and know us can call/text us.”

Smothermon also was in Lubbock on Wednesday to pray with the victims’ families, both of whom attended his church. He said the families declined to make formal statements Wednesday.

“They are both concentrating on their child and each other,” Smothermon said in a text message.

On Wednesday evening, parents and their kids packed into the Roswell Civic Center 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 who spoke to the Journal 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, whom she said was still very emotional after seeing the shooting. “We have a lot of emotional recovery that we have to rebuild. … She’s broken, but getting better and better.”

Parent Marisa Martinez said district officials told parents that the Las Cruces school counselors had offered to come into Roswell to provide additional counseling, which she is considering. Her sixth-grade daughter was an acquaintance of the shooting suspect and victims, she said.

Today, students return to class. They have organized a campaign to wear yellow ribbons and to write the victims’ names on their arms. They also have hundreds of posts on social media asking for prayers and well wishes for the small town. More than 470 such posts are organized under the hashtag “#prayersforkendaland(theothervictim),” and another hashtag, though smaller, is “#PrayersforMason.”

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