People gather outside of Freeman High School after reports of a shooting at the school in Rockford on Wednesday. (KHQ via AP)

Marysville schools send support across state after shooting

“We know Rockford has a long road to recovery ahead,” district officials said.

Related: Student dies trying to stop school shooter; 3 others injured

Herald staff and news services

MARYSVILLE — Officials from the Marysville School District were headed to Eastern Washington on Wednesday to offer their support to a community struck by tragedy.

Superintendent Becky Berg and one of the trauma professionals who has been working with students and staff in Marysville were bound for Rockford, a town of less than 500 people. On Wednesday morning, a shooting at Freeman High School, which serves the Rockford community south of Spokane, left one student dead and at least three injured.

It stirs memories of the deadly school shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School in October 2014. Five students, including the shooter, were killed, and one young man was badly injured.

The people of Marysville are sending thoughts and prayers to those affected by the Freeman High School shooting, the district said in a written statement.

“As a school district that has been impacted by a similar senseless tragedy, we know Rockford has a long road to recovery ahead,” officials wrote. “The Marysville School District will stand by them and provide the support and care needed in the days and months to come.”

The student who opened fire was stopped by a staff member, authorities said.

The suspect, whom a classmate described as being obsessed with previous school shootings, was taken into custody. The wounded victims were expected to survive, officials said.

The shooter brought two weapons to Freeman High School in Rockford, south of Spokane, but the first one he tried to fire jammed, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told reporters.

“He went to his next weapon,” Kzenovich said. “A student walked up to him, engaged him, and that student was shot. That student did not survive.”

The sheriff said the shooter fired more rounds down the hallway, striking the other students, before a school staffer could stop him. Kzenovich called it a courageous act that prevented further bloodshed.

Elisa Vigil, a 14-year-old freshman, told The Associated Press that she saw one male student shot in the head who janitors covered with a cloth and another female student wounded in the back.

Michael Harper, a 15-year-old sophomore, said the suspect had brought notes in the beginning of the school year, saying he was going to do “something stupid” and might get killed or jailed. Some students alerted counselors, the teen told the AP, but it wasn’t clear what school officials did in response.

A call to the school was not immediately returned.

Harper said the shooter had many friends and was not bullied, calling him “nice and funny and weird” and a huge fan of the TV show “Breaking Bad.” He also said the suspect was obsessed with other school shootings.

Students say the shooter was armed with a pistol and rifle and had carried a duffel bag to school. After shots were fired, students went running and screaming down the hallways, Harper said.

Authorities didn’t release the suspect’s identity or a possible motive. The victims also were not named.

Luis Prito, an assistant football coach at Freeman High, called the shooting devastating. A vigil was planned Wednesday evening at a nearby church.

“This is a real close-knit community,” he said.

A two-lane road into the town of about 500 people near the Idaho border was clogged as worried parents sped to the school. Some people abandoned their cars on the street to make it to their children.

Cheryl Moser said her son, a freshman, 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.”

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital received three pediatric patients, spokeswoman Nicole Stewart said. They were in stable condition and surrounded by family, she said.

Stephanie Lutje told the AP she was relieved to hear her son was safe after his high school near Freeman High was put on lockdown. She commended the school district for its communication.

“It’s been amazing, within probably 15-20 minutes of hearing about it, I’d already received a phone call, I’d already received a text message saying that their school is OK,” she said.

She still worried for others she knew, including a co-worker who had yet to hear from her son, a sophomore at Freeman.

“My stomach’s in knots right now,” she said.

Gov. 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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