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NM Teacher's Actions Saved Lives In School Shooting

1:54 PM, Jan 15, 2014   |    comments
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John Bacon, USA TODAY

Ten seconds of horror and one heroic teacher turned a normal New Mexico morning into one that will never be forgotten at a Roswell middle school that boasts of winning the girls city basketball championship and just days earlier issued its midyear report cards.

Police say a 12-year-old student walked into the crowded gym at Berrendo Middle School shortly before school was to start Tuesday and began firing a sawed-off shotgun. Two students were wounded, one critically. Chaos ensued.

"I just saw blood everywhere," said Essance Sosa, 12. "Everyone started screaming and running."

Authorities say John Masterson, an eighth-grade social studies teacher who coaches girls soccer and track, saved lives when he immediately stepped in and talked the boy into dropping his weapon.

"The young man shoots and shoots and then is pointing the firearm at Mr. Masterson," Gov. Susana Martinez said. "Mr. Masterson then begins to talk to him, telling him to put it down. The young man put it down and raised his hands.

"He (Masterson) stood there and allowed the gun to be pointed right at him so there would be no more young kids hurt," Martinez said.

Masterson then held the student until a State Police lieutenant, dropping his own child off at the school, was alerted to the shooting and took the suspect into custody.

"It was a harrowing experience," Masterson told the Albuquerque Journal. "All I can say was the staff there did a great job."

State Police Chief Pete Kassetas lauded Lt. Gary Smith, the parent who was alerted by the school's principal that a shooting had just taken place.

"He left his son in the car and went to the gym," Kassetas said. "He had to make that difficult decision to leave his child and go into that school. Imagine having to make that decision."

Kassetas said preliminary information indicated that the shooter may have warned some students not to go to school Tuesday. The suspect was transferred to a psychiatric hospital following a hearing Tuesday.

Officials credited previous "active shooter" drills by Roswell Independent School District for preparing teachers and students. Some students said they thought the shooting was a surprise drill at first. The reality hit hard.

Officials at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, said an 11-year-old boy was flown there in critical condition and a 13-year-old girl arrived in serious condition. Martinez said the boy underwent two surgeries. She identified the girl as Kendal Sanders, 13, and said her condition was upgraded to stable.

"Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families and students who were affected by this senseless action," Superintendent of Schools Tom Burris said. He said the school would be closed Wednesday, but that plans were underway to reopen Thursday.

Investigators still aren't sure why the boy, who has not been named by authorities or formally charged, opened fire. Authorities said the boy sneaked the shotgun onto campus in a bag or musical instrument case.

Albuquerque attorney Robert Gorence, who is representing the suspect, said the boy's family will be issuing a written statement Wednesday.

"Our family, right now, is prayerful and thinking of the kids that were hurt and their families and praying that God will oversee this situation," said local lawyer Jason Bowles, who is related to the suspect.

 

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