Gunfire rang out Friday at a New Mexico middle school, where authorities say a 13-year-old allegedly shot and killed a peer, KRQE-TV reports.
The incident occurred around 12:45 p.m. – during the lunch break at Washington Middle School in Albuquerque – where it was just the third day of classes for the academic year.
Amari Asbury, who is in eighth grade, told KOAT-TV that students were fighting outside when one of them took out a gun.
“He brought out the gun, cocked it and all you hear is boom, boom, boom,” Asbury told KOAT-TV. “Everybody just starts running.”
Asbury also told the Albuquerque Journal: “Me and my friend, we thought it came from the park . . . Then his best friend came over crying and everything. What happened? He just got shot.”
Officials say a school resource officer was able to intervene and “de-escalate the situation” by herself. She subsequently detained the 13-year-old boy who fired the gun.
The male victim, who was around the same age as the shooter, was rushed to a hospital where he died, according to the newspaper. Authorities placed the school on lockdown and told parents to pick up their children.
No one else was injured in the incident, which Albuquerque Police Department Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock described as an “isolated shooting” during a news conference, according to KOAT-TV.
Investigators are examining how the alleged shooter, whose identity has not yet been released publicly, obtained the weapon.
Scott Elder, superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools, said school staff should be commended for helping to protect students.
The staff “showed tremendous courage and strength in keeping the other students safe and calm and got them out safely to their families, especially our school resource officer who ran towards the event and tried to help,” Elder said during the news conference, according to KOAT-TV.
Classes have been canceled Monday so staff can work with therapists and counselors to help prepare for when students return.
“It’s just a terrible day for APS. It’s a terrible day for this community,” Elder said at the news conference, according to KOAT-TV.
Ross Rader, a neighbor who heard the gunfire, said the shooting is unnerving.
“I’m frightened right now,” Rader told KRQE-TV. “We’ve been experiencing a lot of crime on this block recently.”
Students and parents told KRQE-TV that a fight reportedly occurred at the school on Thursday, one day before the shooting. However, it is not clear whether that fight is related to the shooting.
The New Mexico Public Education Department issued a statement lamenting the circumstances of the day.
“Today’s tragic event at Washington Middle School in Albuquerque means the terrible scourge of school violence has landed on our doorstep. While many details are still unknown, we do know that shots were fired, that a child is dead, and that someone is in custody,” the statement reads, according to KRQE-TV.
The statement continues: “The senseless and violent death of a child in our protection is, indeed, the worst,” the statement said. We share in your grief and pain as we once again are called upon to reflect on our failure — as adults and as a society — to protect and preserve the lives and health of our children.”
Meanwhile, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said the victim should be known as a hero.
“Sadly, a child lost his life because a classmate brought a gun to school,” Medina said in a written statement, according to the Journal. “The boy who lost his life is also a hero. He stood up for a friend and tried to de-escalate a violent confrontation between classmates. This incident is a tragedy that has shaken our community.”