A social studies teacher is credited for making sure nobody was hurt when a student fired a gun Monday morning at North Thurston High School in Lacey.
Brady Olson tackled the 16-year-old suspect who allegedly fired a gun twice inside the school about five minutes before classes were scheduled to begin, Lacey Police Cmdr. Jim Mack said.
“Any time you take action like that, it’s very heroic,” Mack said of Olson. “He put his own self at risk to ensure that no one was hurt.”
The student, whose name has not been released, was booked into Thurston County Juvenile Detention Center and is under investigation for numerous firearm-related offenses, Mack said.
“At this time we know that one shot was fired in the upstairs gym area of the school and the second shot was fired as he came down the steps into the commons area, which is the lunch room of the school,” Mack said.
A loaded revolver was recovered at the scene, he said. “It was the parents’ gun and it was taken unlawfully,” Mack said.
The student recently moved to North Thurston from Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines, district spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve said.
As for a motive, Mack said the boy told detectives that “there were some issues in personal relationships.” The boy also told police that he never intended to hurt any students.
When asked if the shooting was an attempted suicide by police, Mack said: “It definitely could have been.”
‘AM I GOING TO DIE?’
The shooting was reported at 7:24 a.m. by a school resource officer.
Some students ran out of the school, while others fled to classrooms. The school was immediately locked down.
“I started running,” said North Thurston senior Manisha Sapkota, 18, who went with other students and a teacher to a neighborhood down the street. “I said, ‘Am I going to get shot? Am I going to die today?’ It was scary.”
Student Anthony Rybalkin, 16, said he was in the school’s commons area when the shots were fired. He initially thought it was some type of prank.
“I saw (the student) walking down the stairs with a cigarette and gun in his hand,” Rybalkin said. “I was like, ‘This is actually happening.’ ”
Rybalkin said Olson tackled the suspect, and a principal helped hold him down until police arrived.
Tyrina Thrower, 15, said she stayed on the phone with her dad as she hid in a classroom with others immediately after the shooting.
“I was crying, and I told him there was a guy with a gun in the building,” Thrower said.
Her dad, Charlesell Thrower, 50, a former police officer, said his first instinct was to calm his daughter down, then make sure she stayed safe. “I told her, ‘What I need you to do is stay low, stay quiet and listen to your teachers.’ ”
Kim Carlson was still in tears hours later as she talked about how a paraeducator helped move her son’s wheelchair out of the commons area to safety during the incident.
“She never abandoned him at all; she took care of him,” Carlson said.
“To go out of your way in such a big way and put yourself at risk? That’s exactly what she did. I can’t thank her enough.”
North Thurston Superintendent Raj Manhas praised Olson and other staff members for their quick response in a statement released Monday afternoon.
“What could have been a tragedy was instead a solemn reminder of the importance school safety drills and lockdown drills can make in saving lives,” Manhas said.
“Our Critical Incident Response and reunification process went smoothly given the circumstances.”
SUSPECT’S PARENTS COOPERATING
Olson declined to be interviewed Monday, but issued a statement through the school district. In part it stated: “No one, including myself, can prepare for a situation like this, so I’m very thankful that we’re all okay. As always, students come first, and today was no different. I reacted in a way that any other teacher would react, and at the sound of a gunshot, three other adults, including Dean of Students Tim Brown, Principal Steve Rood and security officer Jim Beltico were going toward the sound of gunfire rather than away. We will all group together as a staff and community, like we always do, and continue to put kids first.”
School was canceled Monday along with athletic events and activities, but classes will resume on their regular schedule Tuesday.
“We’re telling parents they can excuse their students if they so choose,” Schrieve said. “We’ll have counselors on hand.”
Nearby Capital Christian Center offered counseling services for students Monday night, Deborah McLain, wife of the group’s pastor, said.
During a search of the boy’s home, detectives recovered three laptop computers and a couple of cellphones that will be examined for evidence, Mack said. “The parents are cooperating in this investigation,” he added.
Mack said South Sound agencies frequently hold “active shooter drills,” and the situation played out the way they would want it to.
“Everything went very well today,” Mack said.
Staff writer Jerre Redecker contributed to this report.