RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A 16-year-old student suspected of opening fire inside a high school in suburban Albuquerque was charged Thursday with attempting to commit murder and carrying a deadly weapon on school grounds, police said.
The shooting, in which no one was injured, came on the anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre.
The boy, who police say fired a handgun before leaving it behind and fleeing, was quickly taken into custody. In a statement, Rio Rancho police said the student also was facing a misdemeanor count of being a person younger than 19 in possession of a firearm. Information on an attorney was not immediately known.
The Associated Press is not naming the V. Sue Cleveland High School student from Rio Rancho because of his age. Police said he had been booked into the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center after he was questioned by officers.
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Students were quickly evacuated, but the episode still sent shockwaves through the sprawling suburb north of New Mexico’s largest city, said Rio Rancho Police Chief Stewart Steele. More than 2,500 students attend the high school.
“It was extremely scary,” Steele said. “We just thank God it ended the way it did.”
Authorities had not yet identified a motive for the shooting that occurred around 7 a.m. Police believe the shot had been fired inside a hallway but didn’t know at the start of the day if the shooter had pointed a gun at anyone.
Rio Rancho Superintendent V. Sue Cleveland, whose name dons the high school, said at least two students witnessed the gunshot before the shooter fled on foot.
He was spotted by police 30 minutes after the shooting in dry wash near the school, Steele said.
School officials said on Twitter that all students were safe, and the district’s other schools were open. They announced later Thursday that classes at the high school would be postponed until Tuesday, the day after Presidents’ Day.
Kristy Berberich said outside the high school that her 16-year-old son called her immediately after students heard a gunshot.
“I was worried sick but I knew he was safe,” she said.
The episode came as thousands of students and others planned a moment of silence to remember the 14 students and three staff members killed last Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the deadliest high school shooting in the nation’s history.
That tragedy — along with a deadly shooting at New Mexico’s Aztec High School in December 2017 — is helping to fuel debate in the state Legislature over an ambitious slate of bills related to firearms and school safety.
The arrival in January of a Democratic governor to succeed a pro-gun rights Republican has opened the door to calls for broader background checks on private gun sales and initiatives to remove firearms from the hands of people who may be suicidal or seen as a danger to others.
The gun-seizure measure was passed by the Democrat-led House late Wednesday following an emotionally charged debate. Outside the House chamber, about 30 high-school aged students gathered in the Capitol rotunda to mark the anniversary of the Parkland massacre. They received praise from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for pushing peacefully for new gun-safety regulations.
Additional initiatives would ensure teachers cannot carry firearms at schools and expand child neglect laws to encompass the secure storage of household firearms.
Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf said the episode reinforces the need for gun safety reforms and infrastructure spending to secure schools.
Hudetz reported from Albuquerque. Associated Press writers Paul Davenport in Phoenix and Morgan Lee in Santa Fe contributed to this report.