BENTON, Ky. — A 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun inside his high school in rural western Kentucky on Tuesday, killing two fellow students and wounding a dozen other youths before he was arrested, the state’s governor and police said.
The shooting began shortly before 8 a.m. CST at Marshall County High School in Benton, a small farming town about 130 miles (210 km) northwest of Nashville, Tennessee, according to Kentucky State Police and Governor Matt Bevin.
Authorities declined to discuss possible motives for the shooting. There was no immediate indication of how well the suspect knew the victims, but officials said he was believed to have acted alone and faces multiple charges of murder and attempted murder.
“There’s no good answer for it,” Bevin told reporters at a news conference. “There’s 1,000 hypotheses we’re not going to go into.”
The bloodshed at the school, where nearly 1,150 students are enrolled, was the latest outbreak of gun violence that has become a regular occurrence at schools and college campuses across the United States over the past several years.
Tuesday’s rampage occurred just 32 miles (52 km) from Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, where in 1997 a 14-year-old boy opened fire on a group of students, killing three.
At Marshall County High, 14 students were hit by gunfire, two of them fatally, officials said. A 15-year-old girl was pronounced dead at the scene, and a 15-year-old boy died at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s trauma unit in Nashville, Bevin and hospital officials said.
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Four of the other gunshot patients brought to Vanderbilt were expected to survive, doctors said. Less severely wounded students were taken to other hospital in the area. Another five students suffered non-gunshot injuries, Bevin said, bringing the total number of injured to 17.
The 15-year-old suspect walked into the school armed with a handgun and started shooting, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Richard Sanders said at the news conference. Bevin said the youth was apprehended at the school “in a nonviolent” manner, but the governor did not elaborate.
Sanders said students followed training they had recently received from state police in how to respond to such incidents.
No further details of the circumstances of the shooting were immediately released by authorities. None of the students involved were being publicly identified, Bevin said.
Agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation joined in the investigation, officials said at the news conference.
The school serves Marshall County, which has population of about 31,000.
During the news conference at the county Board of Education, Bevin paused to collect himself as his voice choked with emotion, asking members of the news media to exercise restraint in dealing with the families of victims.
“I beg of you again - respect the fact that these children belong to this community and to specific families in this community. And this is a wound that is going take a long time to heal. And for some in this community it will never fully heal.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump had been briefed on the shooting, adding, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families there.”
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(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Peter Szekely in New York, Suzannah Gonzales and Chris Kenning in Chicago and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)