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Expelled student charged in school shooting

March 25, 2011

By HASAN DUDAR
and CHARLES WILSON
Associated Press
    MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A 15-year-old boy who was expelled this week opened fire at his central Indiana middle school before classes began Friday, shooting another teen student in the stomach, police said. The incident sparked an hours-long school lockdown as hundreds of panicked parents awaited word on their children.
    State Police Sgt. Curt Durnil said Chance Jackson, 15, was in critical but stable condition at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he was taken by helicopter after the shooting at Martinsville West Middle School just after 7 a.m.
    Police arrested the former student suspected in the attack on the south side of Martinsville about an hour after the shooting, and are interviewing him at the county jail, Durnil said. Morgan County prosecutors are reviewing possible charges against the boy, he said.
    Police refused to speculate on a possible motive in the shooting. Durnil said the teen in custody had been suspended then expelled from the school this week and was not supposed to be on campus. He said he did not know why the student was expelled.
    ‘‘We have no motive at all at this point. We’re talking to witnesses and schools officials to get to the bottom of it,’’ he said.
    Durnil declined to address reports that the shooting may have stemmed from a dispute that started at a school dance last weekend.
    ‘‘We’re still looking at all angles, to be sure,’’ Durnil said.
    Classmates told The Associated Press that Jackson and the shooting suspect had a volatile relationship and had argued before.
    Morgan Lanfair, an 18-year-old student at a local high school, said she and the suspect have been friends for two years. She said he has been in trouble at school before but that she didn’t think he ‘‘would go through with something like this.’’
    Jackson’s family released a statement Friday afternoon that said the teen was out of surgery and in stable condition. The family asked the public to pray ‘‘for the families of all involved.’’
    Police found the handgun used in the shooting in a field near the school, which is about 30 miles south of Indianapolis, Durnil said. He said police were not looking for any other suspects in the shooting.
    One neighbor reported hearing two gunshots, but Martinsville Police Chief Jon Davis said he did not know how many times the victim was shot. Durnil also said it was unclear how many shots were fired.
    Michael Adams, who lives kitty-corner from the school, said he was woken by something that sounded like a gunshot, followed almost immediately by another.
    ‘‘I thought it was a car backfiring or something,’’ he said.
    A short time later, Adams heard a helicopter and saw the distinctive flashing lights of police vehicles.
    ‘‘This whole area was swarming with police and family members,’’ he said.
    All schools in the district were initially locked down as a precaution.
    Several parents said they heard about the shooting on the news or through calls or text messages from their children and questioned why the school didn’t send an alert until more than an hour after the shooting.
    ‘‘It was ridiculous,’’ said Sandy Pitman, who has a son in seventh-grade at the school.
    Assistant school Superintendent Randy Taylor said during an afternoon news conference that the school district had a plan in place and carried it out. He did not take questions.
    Melissa Payne was just starting her shift as a registered nurse at the local hospital when her daughter texted her about the shooting. Payne’s son, Nathan, is an eighth grader at the school. He had left his phone at home so she was initially unable to reach him.
    ‘‘I just lost it, I was crying,’’ she said.
    She rushed to the school and, just as she arrived, Nathan called her from someone else’s phone to tell her he was OK.
    By 10:45 a.m. she was waiting in line with other parents to sign release forms so they could take their children home.
    Martinsville West Middle School, one of two middle schools in the city, has about 600 students and 39 teachers.
    ———
    Associated Press writers Rick Callahan and Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
 

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