Amina Bowman, an 8-year-old third-grade student, remains in critical condition after a gun in the backpack of a 9-year-old classmate went off at a Bremerton elementary school.
BREMERTON — The mood was somber Thursday morning as students and teachers returned to Armin Jahr Elementary School, where a third-grade girl was accidentally shot a day earlier.
Fifth-grader Ellis McAdoo walked into the school with his mother, but decided it was too soon to be back. They walked out and went back home.
“I tried to get him back on the horse, but it was just a little too much for him. I think he’ll be fine tomorrow,” said his mother, Christy McAdoo.
Other students seemed cheerful and talkative, walking into school as if it was a normal day. But it was clear from the reactions of many that it wasn’t going to be business as usual at Armin Jahr.
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Some parents consoled their children, reminding them school is generally a safe place, but accidents occasionally happen.
Counselors are at the school and substitute teachers are also available to assist any teachers who need help, according to Bremerton schools. It wasn’t immediately clear how many students stayed away from school.
Patty Glaser, school district spokeswoman, said staff at the school decided to open Thursday to respond as quickly as possible to the needs of students.
“In order to get help to students as soon as possible, you have the most impact the closer to the event that happens,” she said. “The teachers really believe they need to be there for their students at this difficult time.”
Meanwhile, the condition of the wounded girl, 8-year-old Amina Bowman, remained critical Thursday morning, according to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.
Wednesday, moments before the end of school, a single gunshot was fired in a third-grade classroom, Amina. The girl was flown to Harborview Medical Center.
Bremerton police believe the shooting was accidental.
Another student had brought the loaded handgun to school, police said. The handgun accidentally discharged while it was in the boy’s backpack, and the bullet struck Amina, police said.
Police said a handgun was recovered in the classroom.
The student who took the handgun to school has been booked into the Kitsap County Juvenile Detention Center for investigation of unlawful possession of a firearm, bringing a dangerous weapon onto school grounds and third-degree assault.
Investigators are trying to determine where the boy obtained the handgun.
They released few details about the boy, reportedly a 9-year-old third-grader.
The student had recently transferred to the school, Bill Poss, husband of teacher Natalie Poss, told KIRO-TV.
“I don’t know a lot about the kid other than my wife’s been coming home talking about him, and he’s been a real problem in the class, and she’s been very concerned about it,” said Bill Poss.
Todd Dowell of the Kitsap County prosecutor’s Juvenile Division said his office is still going through police reports. He expects there will be charges against the boy, but hasn’t determine what those will be, he said.
The boy is due in court for a preliminary hearing at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
At the hearing, Dowell said, a judge will determine whether bail will be set and a motion for a capacity hearing will be filed.
Dowell said under state law children between 8 and 12 years old can face charges if a court determines the child has the capacity to understand an act is wrong.
“There will be some charges. We’re still putting the paper work together on that,” Dowell said.
Amina was first taken to Bremerton’s Harrison Hospital before being airlifted to Harborview, where she underwent about two hours of exploratory surgery to determine the extent of her injuries.
The bullet reportedly struck Amina’s arm and then went into her abdomen, but hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg would not disclose details of her injury.
Amina’s grandmother, Cindy Kocer, told KING-TV that her family expects the girl will be OK, but asked the community for prayers.
Bremerton police and emergency crews were dispatched to the school at 1:29 p.m. in response to a call that a student had been shot by another student.
The school was immediately locked down after the shooting, and all students were confined to their classrooms.
Jennifer Stevens was walking to the school to pick up three of her children when she saw “police cars flying down the road.”
Another young mother told Stevens a child had been shot at the school.
Stevens said her heart almost stopped. “Is it one of mine?” she thought.
Seconds later, another woman, who she believes was a relative or friend of Amina, ran toward the girl’s home screaming, “It’s her! It’s her!” Stevens said.
Parent Sharrae Sevier, of Port Orchard, said her son, Darnell, was in a classroom next to the room where Amina was shot. He told his mother he heard a loud bang and a short time later a voice came over the intercom telling students the school was under lockdown.
“They were all huddled together under the teacher’s desk, and everything was really quiet,” Sevier said.
Darnell later told his mother he was confused and had no idea what had happened, she said. He didn’t realize the loud bang had been a gunshot.
The lockdown was lifted sometime after 2 p.m., and children rushed to tearful reunions with their parents in the school gym, Sevier said.
“It was probably one of the scariest days of my life,” said Sevier, 26. “A little over an hour was like an eternity to me, just not knowing.”
Parents who gathered outside the school wondered how a 9-year-old boy could have obtained a loaded firearm and taken it into a classroom.
“What I keep wondering,” said Sara Sisk, a 28-year-old alumna of Armin Jahr, “is how in the world did a third-grader get ahold of a gun?”
At the school Thursday the district was working with worried parents who either chose not to send their children to school or who showed up to speak with school officials before deciding to leave their child for the day, said Glaser, the district spokeswoman.
About 10 people, including district counselors from other schools and grief counselors, were on-site to talk to students, parents and staff.
Counselors were paying special attention to the classroom where the incident occurred, Glaser said.
Kocer, Amina’s grandmother, said the girl is about to turn 9.
Neighbors of the girl, who lives less than two blocks from the school, described the family as warm and friendly.
Both of the Bowman children, Amina and an older brother who attends Bremerton High School, are “good kids,” said neighbor Kenneth Brooks. “They’ve never been in any trouble.”
Amina, who has long dark hair that hangs past her waist, is something of a tomboy, said other neighbors.
She is often out in her yard or street, riding her bike, playing basketball with the two girls across the street or running around, said Brooks and another neighbor, Alan Goff.
Brooks said he doubted that Amina, who was always smiling, could have been an intentional target. “She was a sweet kid, definitely not the type to bully anybody.”
His son, Jarius Brooks, a Bremerton High School student, he believed Amina “must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Armin Jahr will reopen Thursday, said Linda Jenkins, the district’s assistant superintendent. The school has about 400 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Bremerton School Board member Dave Boynton called the shooting a “rare, isolated incident.”
He said the School Board would review safety procedures after seeing the results of the police investigation.
“Right now our concern is with the child and how the child’s doing,” he said. “Obviously this is a tragedy.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice announced that violent crime at the nation’s schools is declining. The number of violent deaths declined to 33 in the 2009-10 school year, the lowest number on record since the agencies began collecting data in 1992
In the previous school year, there were 38 such deaths.
But the new government data reports an increase in cyber bullying and youth suicides.
The shooting is the first at a Washington school since February 2010, when 30-year-old Jed Waits, of Ellensburg, fatally shot Jennifer Paulson, a special-education teacher at Birney Elementary School in Tacoma. Waits later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In October, Snohomish High School freshmen April Lutz and Bekah Staudacher were stabbed in a school restroom, allegedly by another student.
Seattle Times staff reporters Jack Broom, Brian M. Rosenthal and Emily Heffter and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from The Associated Press.