MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A teenage boy was shot and critically wounded Thursday inside a school in Memphis, Tennessee, and police detained a second boy believed to be the shooter. The K-8 school was placed on lockdown and students were taken by bus to a nearby church to be reunited with frantic parents.
Memphis police identified both the victim of the shooting at the Cummings School and the alleged shooter as 13-year-old boys, Assistant Police Chief Don Crowe said. Both were students at the school.
The wounded child underwent surgery at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital and was expected to recover, officials said. Crowe said the shooting took place in a stairwell. Video footage showed there were no other students in the stairwell when the shooting occured, Crowe said.
The suspect fled the school after the shooting, but later surrendered at a police precinct. He was expected to be charged with criminal attempt of first-degree murder and taken to juvenile court, Crowe said.
Police have not released details about what led to the shooting, where the alleged shooter got the gun, and where on his body the wounded child was shot. School officials said Cummings performs random metal detector scans on students.
“We also have to think, ‘How did a 13-year-old get their hands on a gun?'” Crowe said. "It's a question we all want the answer to. I'm not sure we'll ever find the full truth. But certainly, it begs of everyone to keep their guns secure."
After the shooting, parents held umbrellas in a light drizzle and talked with each other as they waited for children to arrive at the church. Ebonnie Hayslett rushed to the school to make sure her two nieces were safe.
“The worst news you could receive is a shooting at a kids school," she said. "My main concern was the kids being OK, the teachers, the faculty. No one wants to go pick up their kids and be surrounded by SWAT cars and police officers.”
A school resource officer who was inside the building responded to the shooting and informed police about it, said Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray. A school nurse applied pressure to the child's wound to help stop the bleeding, Ray said.
Students were lined up and taken out of the school into buses, which brought them to the church.
Tempers flared briefly as parents lined up outside the church, demanding information about the shooting and pushing for the release of their kids. When the students were dismissed, some of them were crying and hugging their parents as they left the church.
Ray said emergency procedures were followed closely. He praised teachers and staff for keeping the children calm and safe, and for using training from an active shooter drill held in early September.
Ray became emotional while speaking with news reporters outside Metropolitan Baptist Church.
“We’re doing all we can to keep our students safe,” Ray said. “We can’t allow our children to hurt from gun violence.”
School board president Michelle McKissack acknowledged that the relatively young age of the detained student, 13, was shocking.
A former TV news reporter, McKissack recalled covering the 1998 Westside Middle School shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, which was committed by two boys ages 13 and 11. Four students and a teacher were killed, and 10 others were wounded.
“It was very shocking today to find out that this was happening at a middle school,” McKissack said.
The shooting is the latest in a rash of incidents in the past two years in which children in Memphis have been shot, some fatally.
Dr. Barry Gilmore, chief medical officer at Le Bonheur, said more than 100 children have been treated for gunshot wounds this year at the hospital. He added that Le Bonheur was expected to surpass its single-year record of 135 child gunshot patients, set last year.
Reynolds reported from Louisville, Kentucky.