PHOENIX — A 14-year-old boy was found dead by deputies with an apparent gunshot wound Tuesday in an southern Arizona elementary school bathroom.
About 9:22 a.m., sheriff’s deputies received a report of an active shooter at Coronado Elementary, between the towns of Sierra Vista and Hereford near the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels.
He said officers found a boy, who wasn’t publicly identified, on the floor. He had been shot and killed.
Dannels said he didn’t want to characterize the shooting as a suicide until the investigation is completed.
“It’s a homicide until proven otherwise,” he said, according to a videotape replay of the press conference posted by the Sierra Vista Herald/Review.
“We want to make sure we share facts with you. We’re not ruling suicide until the investigation and the facts state that.”
The boy was a student at the school, which serves about 460 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Dannels said both local and federal law-enforcement officers arrived at the school because the call originally came in as an active shooter report.
Even though the sheriff stopped short of calling it a suicide, deputies are not looking for a suspect, said Carol Capas, a Cochise County sheriff’s spokeswoman.
Classes to resume Wednesday
School officials immediately locked down the campus, the sheriff said, and school officials notified parents through robocalls and text messages.
The nearby Sierra Vista United School District sent out a news release saying the campus was cleared of any other possible threat.
“The student does not have any siblings at our school district,” the district said in a post on its Facebook page
Classes were canceled for the rest of the day, and students were bused to a nearby church to be picked up by their parents.
Palominas Elementary School District Superintendent Marylotti Copeland said classes will resume Wednesday.
Coronado is in the district, which serves a total of 950 students.
Copeland, who was also at the press conference, said that students and staff will have access to counselors to help them cope with the incident.
“Our little guys didn’t even know a tragedy had happened. They thought they got to hang out with cops today and that’s all they knew,” she said. “For our older students it’s going to be much harder and we’re going to be there for them.”
‘There’s lots of questions’
The sheriff said the episode has rocked the southeast Arizona community, which has about 125,000 people. Some parents wondered how the episode will affect their children and expressed their condolences to the victim’s family.
“Three decades I’ve been doing this job and it pulls on your emotional strings what we did this morning,” the sheriff said.
Codi Zetich, who lives in Hereford, said his daughter is a third-grader at the school.
“There’s lots of questions,” he said. “Why? How did it get that far? How can I protect my daughter in the future?”
Amanda Griggs said she kept her son, also in third grade, home from school Tuesday because he had a fever.
“I’m so sad for the family that has to get the horrible news today,” she said. “I won’t rant about bullying or gun control. I’m just sad that the child felt there was no other way.”
She said she told her son about the incident because he would have heard about it.
“I told him what happened because he was going to hear about it at school and his only response was, ‘Why?’ ” she said. “I just told him that I didn’t know and that, now, no one will ever know. He was shocked but had nothing else to say.”
The suicide rate doubled for children between 10 years to 14 years old from 2007 to 2014, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In its November 2016 report, the CDC said that suicides were 0.9 per 100,000 kids in 2007 and 2.1, or 425 deaths, in 2014.