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A Denver high school student shot two administrators while being checked for weapons

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Denver police have now identified a student accused of shooting two staff members at the city's East High School this morning. Police say that the student fled the building and is still at large. Colorado Public Radio's Ben Markus is following the story and joins us now with the latest. Hi, Ben.

BEN MARKUS, BYLINE: How are you doing?

CHANG: I'm OK, but can you just tell us more about what police say happened today?

MARKUS: It started when a male East High student who police say is Austin Lyle, 17 years old - he was a known risk. And so he was being searched by administrators a little before 10 o'clock this morning. He was on what they call a safety plan, meaning he was searched on a regular basis based on his past behavior. A handgun was found during the search, and the shooting occurred at that point. Paramedics happened to be near the school, and they responded immediately and probably saved the victims' lives. One faculty member is in critical condition and underwent surgery today. Another is in serious but stable condition. No students were shot or injured, and the school was evacuated fairly soon after the shooting.

CHANG: God. OK, so how is the search for this student going right now?

MARKUS: Well, after initially not identifying the suspect, police this afternoon put out an alert with Lyle's photo and the make of his red SUV that he's driving. They're encouraging anyone with tips as to his location. Denver mayor, Michael Hancock, was at the school this morning, visibly shaken. His son and daughter both graduated recently from East High School.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL HANCOCK: Nothing trumps the safety of our young people in this building and the faculty and staff, and we feel for them right now. This should never - as a parent, I can tell you - never be a concern of a parent, whether or not their kids are safe in their building.

CHANG: And Ben, I understand that gun violence, unfortunately, is something that East High School is familiar with. Like, just last month, a student there was shot and killed, right?

MARKUS: Yeah. Last month, an East student was shot in a park near the school. He later died. That case is still under investigation. But not long after that, hundreds of East High students, wearing their bright red shirts, marched on the school - from the school to the Colorado Capitol in support of gun control, including age limits on gun purchases.

East High School is a notable school. It was the first high school in Denver. It opened in the late 1800s. It's considered one of the top schools in the city, centrally located, not far from the state capitol, and they recently won the state boys' basketball championship.

CHANG: Well, can you tell us more about how students and parents are reacting to today's shooting?

MARKUS: The parents I spoke with are angry, particularly because Denver Police used to post officers inside of schools, but Denver's school board removed them after the George Floyd social justice protests in 2020. There was a belief then that the officers were unfairly targeting Black and Latino students, criminalizing and traumatizing them, but calls have been growing in recent months, following other shootings, to bring the officers back. And that's likely to only intensify after this shooting. So this student, who was ID'd as at risk, was being searched by educators, and we don't know what kind of training they had to conduct these searches.

CHANG: That is Colorado Public Radio's Ben Markus. Thank you, Ben.

MARKUS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ben Markus - Colorado Public Radio
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