Thursday afternoon, Atlanta's school community was shaken to its core when news surfaced that a student had been shot by a fellow student on the grounds of Price Middle School in Southeast Atlanta.
Reports quickly spread to parents as the Atlanta Public Schools system began to inform parents and staff through 'robo-calls.'
Fortunately the child was not critically injured and was released from the hospital Thursday evening. The shooter was taken into custody, just after he fired the gun by off-duty police officer, Investigator Solomon Bibbs, who works part-time at the school.
In an evening press conference last night, Superintendent Davis, gave a brief account of what happened at the school and the immediate plans he and law enforcement were going to enact at Price Middle. This included 2 metal detectors that were in place Friday morning.
An additional press release was held Friday afternoon with Chief of Police and Mayor Kasim Reed. Mayor Reed alluded to a system of video cameras to be installed in all Atlanta schools. He said, "I will review with the superintendent whether we have appropriate security at our schools," as he began to talk about a "doable and affordable system of connected monitors" so that there are always eyes on the school.
Atlanta Public Schools Police Chief Sands and Superintendent Davis spoke speaking about school safety and the possibility of school gangs being part of the major problem in metro schools. Mayor Reed was emphatic, "we are not going to wait to figure out whether someone was in a gang or not. We will provide enhanced security immediately."
Mayor Reed said, "just like we can put eyes on Peachtree street, we need to be able to put eyes on our schools."
Chief Turner spoke and said that no other weapons were found at the time of the search. Turner indicated that a small .380 caliber hand gun was used/involved in the Price Middle School shooting.
Even though, there seemed to be good communication between APS and parents in the moments after the shooting, Superintendent Davis has taken some pointed questions about why it took so long. Davis said, "we will never be able to inform parents instantly. We want to give facts. After the building was swept the Price principal came out and gave parents an update."
The Mayor added his support for Davis by saying, "the superintendent was being thoughtful yesterday by not releasing misinformation too soon. He was more focused on being right than being quick and you take heat for that."
Full Statement from APD Chief Turner:
At 1:56 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 Atlanta Police officers responded to a call of shots fired at Price Middle School on 1670 Benjamin Weldon Bickers Drive in southeast Atlanta.
When officers arrived, they discovered a 14-year-old victim, a student at the school, with a gunshot wound to the back of the neck. He was alert, conscious and breathing and was transported to Grady Hospital. A 15-year-old suspect, also a student at the school, had been taken into custody by an off-duty Atlanta Police Officer, Inv. Solomon Bibbs, who was working as a School Resource Officer for the Atlanta Public Schools system.
While on school grounds, Inv. Bibbs heard gunshots and responded to the scene. He immediately ordered the shooter to drop his weapon, a .380-caliber handgun with a six-round capacity magazine. The shooter complied and was taken into custody without incident. Investigators would later recover three spent shell casings, although the total number of shots fired is still under investigation.
Preliminary investigation has determined that gunfire erupted after words were exchanged outside of the school between two groups of students who are possibly affiliated with local gangs. The shooter in one group was targeting the other group of students. It is not clear at this time if the victim was the specific intended target of the shooting.
APD’s Gang Unit has been engaged as part of the investigation. At this time, it is not clear where the shooter obtained the gun, or how it got onto the school campus. Investigators are working to trace the gun, and determine how it was obtained.
The shooter, a juvenile, was charged with aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony and possession of a firearm on school property. It is up to the District Attorney’s Office to determine if the juvenile will face charges as an adult. APD is not confirming the names of any of the involved parties, due to their status as juveniles.
After the shooting, the school was put on lockdown. APD’s SWAT team cleared the school to ensure there were no further, immediate threats. The scene was cleared at approximately 5:45 p.m.