Mason Campbell to be in custody until age 21 for Roswell shootings

Mason Campbell, 12, the suspect in the shooting at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, posted this self-portrait to his Instagram account.
Mason Campbell
Kendal Sanders, 13, center, a victim in the Roswell middle school shooting, sheds tears during a sentencing hearing Wednesday for Mason Campbell, 13. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
Kendal Sanders, 13, center, a victim in the Roswell middle school shooting, sheds tears during a sentencing hearing Wednesday for Mason Campbell, 13. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ROSWELL – Mason Campbell, the 12-year-old boy who opened fire with a shotgun inside Berrendo Middle School in Roswell in January, seriously injuring two students, on Wednesday was remanded into the custody of the state Children, Youth and Families Department until age 21.

Campbell, now 13, had pleaded no contest to three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and carrying a firearm into a school in May.

District Judge Freddie J. Romero made his ruling after a day-long sentencing hearing in state District Court in Roswell. Campbell is to be held in a facility of CYFD’s choice. The sentence allows for him to be released earlier if the department determines he has successfully completed all required therapies and counseling, and has been rehabilitated. Under the state’s Children’s Code, it is the maximum penalty that could have been assessed to a child of Campbell’s age, and what had been requested by the state’s special prosecutor, Matt Chandler.

One of Campbell’s attorneys, Robert Gorence, had argued that because Campbell was amenable to treatment that he be given two years in CYFD custody with an annual review for extension after that.

Injured in the shooting were students Nathaniel Tavarez, 13, and Kendal Sanders, also 13.

Tavarez spent weeks in hospitals and rehabilitation centers for treatment of wounds to his chest, heart, face and head. He had been on a ventilator for a period of time. The vision in both eyes has been severely diminished.

Sanders was released from a hospital after surgeries to repair damage to her right arm and shoulder and right breast. Both children still have lead pellets lodged in their bodies from the shotgun blasts.

Wednesday’s hearing in a filled courtroom was steeped in emotional testimony.

Bert Sanders and Niki Portio, parents of Kendal, and Alfred and Donna Tavarez, parents of Nathaniel, related how the shooting affected their lives and the rest of their family and how they feared that their children might die.

Alfred Tavarez comforts his 13-year-old son, Nathaniel, one of the victims in the Berrendo Middle School shooting in January, during a District Court sentencing hearing in Roswell for Mason Campbell.
Alfred Tavarez comforts his 13-year-old son, Nathaniel, one of the victims in the Berrendo Middle School shooting in January, during a District Court sentencing hearing in Roswell for Mason Campbell.

Portio told the court that her daughter initially required surgery to repair damage to her liver and kidney, as well as surgery to repair her arm and shoulder. Subsequent emergency arterial bypass surgery was performed on her arm when it was discovered she was bleeding internally. Further, she still has more than 150 lead pellets in her body, mostly in the right breast area. Because of the pellets, she will require monitoring her whole life for lead poisoning, “may never be able to have children of her own, and will eventually need breast reconstruction surgery.”

Donna Tavarez recalled the horror of learning of her son’s injuries and rushing to the hospital.

“I just kept screaming, ‘Oh my god, not my baby,’ ” she testified.

He, too, has pellets still lodged in his body, including one deep in his brain, and will also need to be monitored for lead poisoning for the rest of his life.

Both children audibly wept while listening to the statements of their parents and other relatives.

In a touching moment, Kendal guided Nathaniel by the hand to the podium where they addressed the court.

Nathaniel, speaking softly recalled how he woke up in the hospital and didn’t know where he was or why he was there, and how he was thirsty but unable to swallow.

Jennifer Campbell, whose son Mason was sentenced Wednesday in the Berrendo Middle School shootings that injured two students and a security officer, reads a statement at the hearing. With her are attorneys Robert Gorence, left, and Jason Bowles.
Jennifer Campbell, whose son Mason was sentenced Wednesday in the Berrendo Middle School shootings that injured two students and a security officer, reads a statement at the hearing. With her are attorneys Robert Gorence, left, and Jason Bowles.

“I still want to know why,” he said. “Why did this happen to me?”

He asked Judge Romero to impose the maximum sanction on Campbell, which would essentially amount to nine years’ confinement.

“He will have nine years to deal with this. I will be dealing with this for the rest of my life,” Nathaniel said.

“I have forgiven Mason, but it is not OK,” said Kendal in a written statement read by Chandler, in which she also reminded Campbell of all the things that a normal teenager can do that she will no longer be able to participate in.

Also addressing the court were Jim and Jennifer Campbell, Mason’s parents.

They apologized to the injured children and to their families, and then apologized to Mason for not knowing about the bullying that he’d been subjected to and the silent suffering the boy had endured.

Mason Campbell, mostly stoic throughout the court proceeding, showed emotion and wiped tears when his grandmother and brother testified on his behalf. He was particularly moved when his brother, Garrett, 16, apologized to the children injured by Mason, and to their families, and then apologized to Mason.

“I’m not that good of an older brother,” he said. “I hardly ever listen to your problems. I should have been there for you when you needed me.”

At one point, Mason Campbell stood and turned to the crowded gallery and apologized to his former classmates and their families, as well as to Kevin Hayes, a school security guard who sustained minor injuries.

“I am very sorry for my actions. It’s not what I meant to do. I’m very sorry Kendal and Nathaniel and Mr. Hayes. Sorry,” Campbell said.

Violent morning

District Attorney Matt Chandler, center, is joined by victims Nathaniel Tavarez, left, and Kendal Sanders.
District Attorney Matt Chandler, center, is joined by victims Nathaniel Tavarez, left, and Kendal Sanders.

Early on the morning of Jan. 14, after a three-day weekend, Campbell walked into the school’s crowded gymnasium holding a duffel bag from which he removed a 20-gauge shotgun with a sawed off stock and opened fire.

Chandler told the court how Campbell planned the attack days in advance and kept a journal detailing his intentions. Originally, Campbell planned to use a pistol belonging to his father to shoot a bully at the school who had been tormenting him. Unable to locate the gun, Campbell later wrote that he would instead stab the bully with a knife. That plan, too, was altered and Campbell wrote that he would randomly open fire with a shotgun.

The name of the alleged bully was not released.

Chandler also told how Campbell was driven to school by his uncle on the morning of the shooting and when asked what was in a duffel bag the boy said it was items he needed for PE class.

Initially after the shooting, Mason was sent to an Albuquerque psychiatric hospital for evaluation, then transferred to the Chaves County Juvenile Detention Center in Roswell.

During a March hearing, the court accepted a forensic evaluation indicating that Campbell was competent to stand trial, having met the criteria that the boy was aware of the charges against him and was capable of assisting in his own defense.

Campbell’s attorneys asked the court to allow the boy to remain at the Chaves County facility. A representative from the center, however, testified that the facility had been overcrowded and there had been concerns about Campbell’s safety that required he be placed in isolation.

Romero consequently ruled that Campbell be transferred to the Bernalillo County Youth Services Center, where he would continue receiving treatment while being detained.

In May, Campbell, speaking through his attorneys, entered a plea of no contest to the charges against him.

Chandler said the biggest benefit of the plea was it avoided putting everyone through a trial.

As a practical matter, he noted, a plea of no contest was the same as a guilty plea “in the eyes of the court,” and the range of sentencing options available to the court wouldn’t change in either situation.

After Wednesday’s hearing, defense attorney Gorence said, “what’s important is that the court recognized that Mason is amenable to treatment,” and will have access to the full spectrum of therapies, counseling and family counseling available at whichever detention facility CYFD decides he should be placed.

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Roswell shooting victim welcomed home

After weeks of surgeries and therapy at hospitals and rehab centers in Texas, Nathaniel Tavarez, seriously wounded in a shooting at Roswell’s Berrendo Middle School on Jan. 14, headed back home to Roswell on Friday, according to 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler.

The family, he said, told him that Nathaniel was “doing really well and recovering and is looking forward to going home.”

Roswell Police said the community’s Chamber of Commerce was helping to organize a Friday afternoon welcome home gathering at the corner of Sycamore and West Second in Roswell.

Tavarez, 12, “will still have to undergo significant rehab,” Chandler said, and a major concern at the moment is his eyesight. “A week ago, he was blind in the left eye and could only see shades of dark and light in his right eye.”

Tavarez, he said, was not expected to return to school immediately.

Tavarez and Kendal Sanders, 13, were injured when 12-year-old classmate Mason Campbell walked into the student-filled school gymnasium early in the morning and opened fire with a shotgun with a sawed off stock, according to police.

Sanders was released from the hospital on Jan. 19 after two surgeries to repair damage to her shoulder. Tavarez remained in the hospital, initially in critical condition, with injuries to his eyes, chest, face and heart. For a period of time he was on a ventilator.

Campbell has been charged with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and carrying a firearm into a school.

He remains at a Roswell juvenile detention facility where he is undergoing a forensic evaluation. Chandler said he expects the evaluation to be complete by mid March.

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Roswell shooting victim released from hospital

Twelve-year-old Nathaniel Tavarez, the second and more seriously injured child from the Jan. 14 shooting at Roswell’s Berrendo Middle School, has been released from UMC Lubbock in Texas. A hospital official on Wednesday confirmed that the boy had been released within the last few days but couldn’t say if he had been sent home or to another facility for ongoing rehabilitation.

Tavarez and Kendal Sanders, 13, were injured when 12-year-old classmate Mason Campbell walked into the student-filled school gymnasium early in the morning and opened fire with a shotgun with a sawed off stock, according to police.

 Nathaniel Tavarez
Nathaniel Tavarez

Sanders was released from the hospital on Jan. 19 after two surgeries to repair damage to her shoulder. Tavarez remained in the hospital in critical condition and later upgraded to serious condition. He had wounds to both eyes, chest, face and heart, and had been on a ventilator for period of time.

On Jan. 30, Campbell was transferred from an Albuquerque psychiatric hospital to the Chaves County Juvenile Detention Center in Roswell, where an additional charge of carrying a firearm into a school was added to the three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon that he’d already been charged with.

Campbell will undergo a 30-day forensic evaluation, “after which a report will be issued to the parties in the matter and then the matter will reconvene in front of a Children’s Court judge,” who will set a trial date, said 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler.

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Roswell middle school shooting suspect transferred

Mason Campbell, the 12-year-old suspected of shooting and seriously wounding two other children at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell on Jan. 14, has been transferred from an Albuquerque psychiatric hospital to the Chaves County Juvenile Detention Center in Roswell.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said Friday that State Police transferred the boy Thursday afternoon. Campbell waived his right to his first hearing and was booked into the juvenile detention center. An additional charge of carrying a firearm into a school was added, Chandler said. Campbell had already been charged with three counts of aggravated battery.

Campbell will undergo a 30-day forensic evaluation, “after which a report will be issued to the parties in the matter and then the matter will reconvene in front of Children’s Court Judge,” who will set a trial date, Chandler said.

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Roswell teacher says he acted just on ‘instinct’ in shooting

Berrendo Middle School teacher John Masterson, left, and security guard Kevin Hayes were applauded for their roles after a shooting last week that wounded two students. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
Berrendo Middle School teacher John Masterson, left, and security guard Kevin Hayes were applauded for their roles after a shooting last week that wounded two students. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The Roswell teacher who got a young student to drop his shotgun last week after a shooting in a middle school gym said Tuesday that it was “just 100 percent instinct.”

“It’s like breaking up a fight. You see a fight going on campus, you break it up,” John Masterson told reporters after he was acknowledged by Gov. Susana Martinez in her State of the State speech on the opening day of the legislative session.

The history teacher at Berrendo Middle School is credited with persuading the shooter to drop his weapon, which was used to wound two students during 10 seconds of gunfire. Berrendo seventh-grader Mason Campbell, 12, has been charged in the shooting.

Masterson said in a brief interview that any one of the school staff would have done the same thing.

“Honestly, I was the closest one,” he said.

“The fact that there was a gun scared me; it scared me more than people will ever know,” he also said.

Masterson said he told the shooter to “put it down.”

“The first thing is, I just kind of yelled ‘Hey’ to get his attention,” the teacher said. Once the student turned toward him, he ordered him to put the gun down.

“He just put it down and put his hands up,” Masterson said.

The history teacher, on his first trip to the state Capitol, got a standing ovation from the crowd when he was introduced along with security guard Kevin Hayes. He said the statewide support for the school and its students has been “overwhelming.”

“Our kids need to heal,” he said.

Masterson said he had no particular message in regard to legislation.

“You don’t think it’s ever going to happen to you, or at your school. It happened. The Lord only knows how to stop it, quite frankly,” he said.

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Prosecutor in Roswell shooting leaving DA’s Office

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler, named as special prosecutor in connection with the Berrendo Middle School shooting in Roswell, on Tuesday confirmed that he will be leaving the DA’s Office on March 1 to start a private law practice focusing on civil litigation, but that “the special prosecutor designation will remain with me until the case is resolved.”

Chandler said he told 5th Judicial District Attorney Janetta Hicks about the upcoming change in his legal career when she appointed him special prosecutor on Jan. 17. Hicks “conflicted out” her office’s role in prosecuting the case against 12-year-old suspect Mason Campbell because she and people in her office have ties to the suspect’s and victims’ families, as well as to students and staff at Berrendo Middle School.

Chandler said any practicing attorney can serve in the role of special prosecutor, and it need not be a prosecutor from a district attorney’s office.

Also on Tuesday, Chandler was in Roswell, where he said he was briefed by State Police investigators, interviewed staff at Berrendo Middle School and met with the family of school shooting victim Kendal Sanders, 13, who had been released from University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, on Sunday following two surgeries to repair shoulder damage.

The other victim, Nathaniel Tavarez, 12, remained in the Lubbock hospital. At last report he was in critical but stable condition and had been taken off a ventilator and was breathing on his own, according to a family member.

Chandler said he was also picking up all the pleadings thus far filed in connection with the shooting incident and would be reviewing them this week so he could decide “how to proceed.”

A judge in Chaves County on Tuesday formalized an order that Campbell’s psychiatric evaluation be completed within 60 days, he said. Campbell is in a psychiatric facility in Albuquerque.

Campbell, a seventh grader, walked into his school’s gymnasium early Jan. 14 and opened fire with a 20-gauge shot gun, reportedly with a sawed off stock. No motive has yet been determined for the shooting.

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NM prosecutor to leave office, keep Roswell case

CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — The top state prosecutor for two eastern New Mexico counties plans to step down soon but he says it won’t affect his work on a school shooting in Roswell.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler says he’ll leave office March 1 to start a private law practice focusing on civil litigation.

The 9th Judicial District includes Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Chandler last week was named to handle the case in which a Roswell middle school student faces juvenile charges in the wounding of two other students.

The district attorney in Roswell stepped down because of conflicts of interests in her office.

Chandler told the Clovis News Journal that he’ll stay on the Roswell case if it goes beyond his March 1 departure from office.

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Dad of Roswell shooting victim: shooter ‘not a bad boy’

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — The family of a New Mexico middle school girl shot by a fellow student on campus said the suspected shooter “is not a bad boy” and that people need to stop trying to find someone to blame.

Bert Sanders, the father of 13-year-old shooting victim Kendal, told reporters Monday he believes the boy’s family are “good people,” the Roswell Daily Record reports. He also said his daughter and the suspected shooter are friends.

Kendal Sanders
KENDAL SANDERS: Has lost movement in one arm

Both went to Vacation Bible Study together and Kendal shares her father’s forgiving nature, he said. “She is not angry at (the suspected shooter). She thinks he made bad choices,” Bert Sanders told reporters.

Kendal and 12-year-old Nathaniel Tavarez were wounded when the young gunman entered the crowded Berrendo Middle School gym Jan. 14 and fired three times from a 20-gauge shotgun.

The seventh-grade suspect has been charged as a juvenile with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Under New Mexico law, the state can charge minors as adults only if they are at least 14. The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify juveniles accused of crimes.

Nathaniel Tavarez remained at a Lubbock, Texas, hospital Monday. A family member said the boy is in critical but stable condition and is now breathing on his own.

Bert Sanders said he believed no one is the blame for the shooting. “Not the teachers. Not the schools. The responsibility is ours. We as parents need to be more involved,” he said.

The injured girl’s mother, Nickie, told reporters gathered at a news conference Monday that her daughter has lost movement in one arm but her feeling and mobility should return.

The girl’s family expects she will be homeschooled for the rest of the year.


Complete coverage: Roswell school shooting

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One Roswell shooting victim recovering at home

ROSWELL – One of the students wounded when a classmate opened fire inside a Roswell middle school gym last week is recovering at home.

The family of 13-year-old Kendal Sanders said she was released from the hospital Sunday. She had two surgeries last week to repair damage to her shoulder.

Kendal Sanders
KENDAL SANDERS: Has lost movement in one arm

“Throughout this tragedy, she has kept her faith, her hope, and has had a good attitude despite emotional and physical pain she’s endured,” her mother, Nickie Sanders, told reporters at a news conference Monday.

She said her daughter had lost movement in one arm but that her feeling and mobility should return.

The girl’s family expects she will be homeschooled for the rest of the year.

Bert Sanders, Kendal’s father, asked parents to listen to their kids, get involved and speak up if they hear them talking about a warning. He said he didn’t think gun control was an answer to shootings like the one at Roswell’s Berrendo Middle School and that he would do everything he could “to get God back in schools.”

Nickie Sanders asked everyone to continue to pray for Kendal, the other victim – 12-year-old Nathaniel Tavarez – and the suspect, 12-year-old Mason Campbell, whom Bert Sanders called “a good kid.”

Bert Sanders said his daughter didn’t actually know at first that she had been shot, and that she walked from the gymnasium where the shooting happened to a classroom, where a teacher comforted her while calling 911.

Nathaniel Tavarez remained at a Lubbock, Texas, hospital Monday. A family member says the boy is in critical but stable condition and is now breathing on his own.

Sanders and Tavarez were wounded when the gunman entered the school’s crowded gym last Tuesday and fired three times from a 20-gauge shotgun.

Campbell, a seventh-grader, has been charged as a juvenile with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Police have yet to speculate about a motive.

Material from The Associated Press and KOAT-TV was used in this report.

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Roswell’s silver lining

An impromptu gathering of well-wishers greeted Berrendo Middle School students on their first day back to class Thursday after the shooting. Holding a sign are, from left, Marissa Garvey, 12, her friend Kaylee Molina, 11, and her mother, Shaundra Biehle. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
An impromptu gathering of well-wishers greeted Berrendo Middle School students on their first day back to class Thursday after the shooting. Holding a sign are, from left, Marissa Garvey, 12, her friend Kaylee Molina, 11, and her mother, Shaundra Biehle. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

ROSWELL – Now that Berrendo Middle School has reopened, and the satellite trucks from CNN and NBC have put Roswell in their rearview mirrors, church and community leaders here are focusing on what they see as a silver lining – the outpouring of support and faith that they say is unique to this town of 48,000 residents.

“It is absolutely amazing that, when tragedy hits in this community, people run to each other and connect,” said Rick Hale, senior pastor at Grace Community Church, one of the city’s largest. “When tragedy hits here, we run to each other rather than away from each other.”

Since the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., more than two dozen schools across America have seen classrooms converted into crime scenes, and communities have tried to figure out what could possibly drive a student or former student to bring a gun to school and fire upon fellow classmates.

Nathaniel Tavarez, 12, was hit in the face and neck, and is hospitalized in critical condition.
Nathaniel Tavarez, 12, was hit in the face and neck, and is hospitalized in critical condition.
Kendal Sanders, 13, was shot in the shoulder and is in satisfactory condition in hospital.
Kendal Sanders, 13, was shot in the shoulder and is in satisfactory condition in hospital.

It’s a list that residents of this southeastern New Mexico town never thought they would be on. But on a cold, windy morning last week, Roswell became town No. 30 – the fourth middle school in the nation to see such a shooting and the second school in the first two weeks of 2014.

“What is sad is that you never imagine that this is going to happen in your town,” parent Jennifer Patrick said after a parent meeting at the Roswell Civic Center on Wednesday night. “But it has.”

Around 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, 12-year-old Mason Campbell carried a 20-gauge shotgun loaded with three rounds into the gymnasium at Berrendo Middle School, according to State Police, where around 500 students had gathered to take shelter from the cold. Two of Campbell’s shots struck the floor and the ceiling, but a third was fired into a stand full of students, injuring 12-year-old Nathaniel Tavarez and 13-year-old Kendal Sanders. Tavarez was in critical condition at a Lubbock hospital as of Friday night and Sanders was in satisfactory condition. Campbell is facing three charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Hale said members of his church and others have organized to provide meals and other “practicalities” to the families of the shooting victims, in addition to Campbell’s family. Hale said that, even though Campbell is the suspected shooter, the town views each family as deserving of prayer and support.

“These are wonderful parents who loved their kids,” he said. “Nobody escaped the tragedy.”

Jim Campbell, Mason’s father, is a private contractor who built his home and his neighbor’s home. On Tuesday morning, two State Police officers armed with assault rifles stood in front of the large house’s driveway.

Mason Campbell faces three charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Mason Campbell faces three charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Mason’s mother, Jennifer, is the sister of prominent Albuquerque attorney Jason Bowles and one of the boy’s grandparents is a well-known Roswell dentist.

The tightknit nature of the community also became evident Friday afternoon when District Attorney Jeanetta Hicks decided to pass the shooting case to another jurisdiction, citing numerous conflicts of interest.

“On the day of the shooting, three of my nieces and two nephews were in the gym,” Hicks said in a news release announcing the handoff. “On the front page of our local newspaper was a picture of my father and one of my nephews … . Moreover, I heard my niece’s 911 call on one of the national cable TV shows and her fear was evident.”

City leaders say Roswell’s size and its large churchgoing population have instilled a sense of community that was evident among the 1,500 residents who packed into the civic center the night of the shooting to pray with the town’s eight senior pastors from different denominations.

It was also evident Thursday morning, when dozens of well-wishers gathered near the school to cheer on kids and their parents on the first day back after the tragedy – a sight that Sean Lee, acting director of the Berrendo parent-teacher organization, said made him swell with pride when dropping his daughter off.

Parents and their kids embrace during a prayer vigil Tuesday night at the Roswell Civic Center. Gov. Susana Martinez and other city and state leaders addressed the crowd between church hymns. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal)
Parents and their kids embrace during a prayer vigil Tuesday night at the Roswell Civic Center. Gov. Susana Martinez and other city and state leaders addressed the crowd between church hymns. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal)

“I got a lump in my throat,” he said. “I thought, what a wonderful gesture to tell our students that everything is going to be OK. I’ve never been more proud of my town than I was in that moment.”

Attendance was optional Thursday and many parents said they wanted to wait at least a couple of days longer before letting their kids return to school. However, some students said they’d might as well get it over with.

“You have to go back no matter what,” said Seth Peña, 13, on Thursday morning as he walked toward the school’s front doors. “The sooner the better.”

Lee said he believes the town will be OK eventually, but it has to answer some questions in the meantime.

Parents at the Wednesday night meeting briefly discussed anti-bullying initiatives and requiring backpack checks for students entering the school, but he said it’s too soon to tell what might come out of the shooting, especially because State Police have not yet determined Campbell’s possible motives.

In the coming days, a group of students from Arapahoe High School in Colorado, shooting No. 28, is possibly going to make its way to Roswell to offer comfort to the 600 or so students at Berrendo. It’s a role Lee said he hopes Berrendo students will take up should school shooting No. 31 happen.

“If something like this should happen again, God forbid, I would hope that our school would be the first to volunteer and say, ‘How can we help you?'”

 


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