A 15-year-old boy opened fire in a hallway at Freeman High School in Rockford, Washington, on Wednesday, tragically killing his best friend and wounding three girls.
Caleb Sharpe was described by one peer as “nice and funny and weird,” but an analysis of his behavior after the fact shows there were very clear warning signs that he had an unnatural fixation with guns and school shootings.
Sharpe arrived at school Wednesday morning with a rifle and a handgun and shot his best friend, Sam Strahan, in the head as he moved to confront him. He then opened fire down the hallway, wounding three female students, before being stopped by a heroic faculty member. Students described the second-floor corridor near the biology lab as “covered in blood.”
Michael Harper, a 15-year-old sophomore peer of Sharpe’s, said the gunman brought in notes about doing “something stupid” at the beginning of the year, saying he would likely be jailed or killed.
Around a month before the attack, Sharpe posted a strange footage of himself shooting a toy gun. He added sound effects and graphics simulating gun blasts to the clip to make it appear more realistic.
A sheriff from Spokane told reporters that Sharpe initially fired several rounds from one of his weapons, and was engaged by Strahan while switching to his second weapon.
“He went to his next weapon. A student walked up to him, engaged him, and that student was shot. That student did not survive,” Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told reporters.
The sheriff said Sharpe fired other rounds down the hallway before being stopped by a brave school custodian.
Knezovich called it a courageous act that prevented further bloodshed.
Elisa Vigil, a 14-year-old freshman, said she saw one male student shot in the head, who janitors covered with a cloth, and another female student wounded in the back.
Harper’s description of Sharpe may lead some to believe he could have been stopped before this incident occurred.
“One of my best friends brought a gun in a duffel bag to school and I guess three people were shot and one was killed and we all hid in the corner of our home room,” Harper said.
“We were all crying and texting. We heard the gunshot and heard everyone running and screaming.”
One student said Sharpe sent him photographs of a school shooting documentary he’d been watching recently, but he never imagined he would commit such violence.
“I was thinking that maybe it wasn’t my friend. But then I had an idea it was all the documentaries he’s been watching … and thinking he sent me a picture on Snapchat when we were talking and it was a documentary and I was like, ‘There’s no way he could do this!’ Now, I’m thinking he might actually have gone through with it.”
Panic stricken parents rushed to pick up their children.
Cheryl Moser said her son, a freshman at Freeman High School, called her from a classroom after hearing shots fired.
“He called me and said, ‘Mom, there are gunshots.’ He sounded so scared. I’ve never heard him like that,” Moser told The Spokesman-Review newspaper.
“You never think about something happening like this at a small school.”
Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement that “all Washingtonians are thinking of the victims and their families, and are grateful for the service of school staff and first responders working to keep our students safe.”
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