DENVER (CBS4) – A juvenile male was critically hurt in a shooting outside of a Denver school Tuesday afternoon. The shooter is still on the loose.
Denver Public Schools first posted on social media saying the suspect was in custody, but minutes later they corrected that report to say the suspect is not in custody.
They added there will be added security at DSST: Cole Middle School on Wednesday, and school will go on as planned.
The shooting happened in the city’s Cole neighborhood near the intersection of 32nd Avenue and Marion Street.
“We are investigating a shooting that occurred outside the school, Mitchell Middle School on the Cole campus, just before 2 o’clock,” said Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen.
He said that officers are actively looking for the suspect in the shooting and urged the public’s help.
“If they witnessed anything we ask them to share the information that they do have that they communicate through our Crime Stoppers 720-913-STOP,” said Pazen.
There was a large police presence at the scene at 2:20 p.m.
“So first and foremost, our students and staff at our schools within Denver Public Schools is our number one priority when it comes to safety. We’re actively working with Denver police to ensure we get communication out to parents, that schools in the surrounding areas are safe which we have done. As soon as this occurred, we did put our school into a lockdown,” said Denver Public Schools chief of public safety Michael Eaton.
So far it’s not clear what led up to the shooting, and Denver police had very little information about the suspect. When asked about the possibility of a gang being involved, Pazen said it was too early in the investigation but that investigators will “look at all possible angles.”
Denver Health confirms they have one victim in critical condition. Pazen said it was a juvenile male who was injured in the shooting.
“We have a crisis team here to support the students here at the DSST school,” said Eaton. “We will have crisis counselors on staff tomorrow morning.”
Denver Public School officials announced at 3:27 p.m. students at Mitchell Campus are being released early. Eaton told CBS4 that there is a controlled release for the middle school students in case anyone needs extra support from a crisis management team.
“DSST: Cole HS will be released now. Buses are available for riders. Students may walk or be picked up on the west side of DSST: Cole MS. DSST: Cole MS will be dismissed at 3:30pm. Buses available for riders. Students may walk or be picked up in auditorium of Cole bldg.”
Stormey Ware says she never received a notification about the school on lockdown from the school, but instead from her oldest daughter who was in a nearby building.
“I don’t want to hear it from my other daughter calling me, or from Facebook or somewhere else okay? We are the parents. You guys are supposed to protect them while they’re here,” she yelled while pointing at the school.
Her frustration echoed by several other parents also waiting outside of the school for any official information about what happened.
Maryjane Henson was there trying to pick up her grandson.
“It was kind of scary being told they were on lockdown, but not know why,” she said. “And then saying they are going to be let loose, and then they are not for another 45 minutes, then it makes you really anxious and nervous.”
All protocol concerns aside, parents were beyond excited to be reunited with their children
For Ware, the moment brought tears to her eyes.
“You don’t understand. That’s my child. That’s my heart. That’s my life,” she said.
Her daughter, 13-year-old Rianna, was close enough to hear the gunshots outside of her classroom.
“All of a sudden we heard maybe seven gunshots go off and then we heard the loud speaker saying we were on lockdown and hide,” she said.
Rianna and her good friend Endeya Clark did everything they were asked to do.
“We have windows all around our classroom so we hid against the wall,” Clark said.
Will Jones, a spokesman for Denver Public Schools, says they did not make the grade today when it comes to notifying parents.
Jones says that the school was immediately put on a lockout, but they do not notify parents for a lockout. He says it should have been a lockdown — at which time parents would have been notified right away.
Where the breakdown in communication occurred is unclear, but Jones says school and security officials will meet to discuss how things will be better in the future on Wednesday.
DPS have been in session for a little over a week.
On Friday, CBS4 covered new procedures for school security and safety at all DPS schools. One of those procedures includes how schools perform lock down drills.