ALBUQUERQUE — A 13-year-old boy at Albuquerque’s Washington Middle School was taken into custody Friday afternoon after police say he shot and killed a fellow student during a lunch break on campus.
The boy who was shot, whose name has not yet been released by police, was pronounced dead en route to an area hospital, Albuquerque police Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock said. He also was believed to be about 13, according to the Associated Press.
Hartsock said an Albuquerque Public Schools police officer was on-site and immediately de-escalated the situation, taking the suspected shooter into custody.
Hartsock had no information on how many shots were fired but said the shooting took place around 12:45 p.m. on a grass infield surrounding the school’s track.
Washington Middle School is in downtown Albuquerque and has 430 students in grades 6-8. Friday was the third day of school, and Superintendent Scott Elder said the campus would be closed Monday so students, parents and staff could seek counseling.
“It’s just a terrible day for APS, just a terrible day for this community,” Elder said.
Just moments before the Albuquerque Police Department addressed media about the shooting, a girl walking to a nearby vehicle said, “My friend just died,” and “I couldn’t stop it.”
She and a man walking with her declined to give their names.
Students were sent home after the shooting, creating a traffic jam in which parents were directed to one side of campus while dozens of police vehicles blocked off intersections in every direction. By midafternoon, the Albuquerque Police Department’s Mobile Crime Lab had taken over the scene, and police barricades were still in place by late afternoon.
Hartsock said several students remained on campus and were being questioned by police.
“We don’t think there is any other shooters outstanding right now, or any other victims,” Hartsock said.
Police were questioning students and staff about the relationship between the shooter and the victim, and whether there was bullying involved, he said.
“That is part of what we’re investigating right now,” he said. “It’s much too early to give any ideas on what led to this.”
Deputy Chief Eric Garcia was unaware if the school’s surveillance system recorded the shooting, but he said police were interviewing residents and people at nearby businesses to gather more information.
He added the police department was looking into whether other students might have been involved, saying the early investigation revealed some students had more detailed information than others.
Elder said the school district will ramp up its security measures as soon as students return to campus. “Security, safety — it’s our top priority.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statement Friday saying she was horrified and heartbroken by the shooting.
“My thoughts go out to the students, families and staff of Washington Middle School, and my prayers are with the loved ones of the victim and all those affected by this senseless act of violence,” she said. “We must continue to do everything in our power to address the scourge of gun violence in our state. These tragedies should never occur.”
Outgoing Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart and his replacement, Secretary-designate Kurt Steinhaus, also issued a joint statement, calling Friday a “horrendous day for New Mexico.”
The middle school tragedy means “the terrible scourge of school violence has landed on our doorstep,” the statement said. “… We share in your grief and pain as we once again are called upon to reflect on our failure — as adults and as a society — to protect and preserve the lives and health of our children.”