(MCT) — ATLANTA — Police are investigating after a student was shot at an Atlanta school on Thursday afternoon.
The 14-year-old student at Price Middle School was transported in stable condition to Grady Memorial Hospital with a gunshot wound to the back of his neck, Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said. The student’s family said he may be released from the hospital Thursday night.
The shooting occurred just before 2 p.m. in southeast Atlanta, north of the Lakewood area. A small-caliber handgun was recovered at the scene. A teacher suffered a minor injury “while running,” Campos said.
An armed police resource officer apprehended the suspect, also a student at the school, “within minutes,” authorities said during a late afternoon news conference. Charges against the suspect are pending, Campos said.
The identities of the victim and the suspect will not be released because they are juveniles.
The preliminary investigation indicates that the shooting was the result of a previous disagreement between the students involved, Campos said.
School officials praised the response of the officer, an off-duty Atlanta police officer, but offer few details of the incident, which happened on the school campus between the main building and the gym.
Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Erroll Davis said that the school followed security protocol in putting a “hard lock down” into effect while Atlanta Police Department SWAT team searched the building room by room to be sure it was secure.
The district notified parents by robocalls about 3:05 p.m. Davis said the response will be reviewed Friday, but his impression was the district responded as fast as it could. He said it was not clear if the suspect had to go through the school’s metal detector because the incident was outside the building.
“We did not want to alert parents that the building was safe and secure until we could determine it was safe and secure, and that takes time,” he said.
After waiting for hours, parent James Bolton Sr. hugged his 10-year-old son in the parking lot of a nearby church at about 5 p.m. He said he was relieved to learn, at about 3:45, that his child was not injured.
“Once they said (the victim) was 14, then I breathed a sigh of relief,” Bolton said. “As long as I got this one back I am OK.” James Bolton Jr., 10, said, “Something happened out in the courtyard.” Students were told over the intercom that the school was on immediate lockdown, the student said.
A parent of an eighth-grader at Price to meet with an assistant principal after her son was involved in a fight said she heard the gunshot.
Upon hearing the gunshot, Madrika Gray said she asked the assistant principal, “Is that what I think it was?” Children immediately began screaming and running, said Gray, who took cover in the assistant principal’s office.
She said she later saw the shot child “conscious and talking.” The mother said she has warned her child that fighting leads to more violence.
“It’s like I told him, a fight is not just a fight anymore, you can get killed,” Gray said.
At 3:45 p.m., a school official emerged and told anxiously waiting parents that “All children are safe.” Parents were not allowed to pick students up at the school, which had been on lockdown and cordoned off by police. Instead, students boarded buses and were transported to nearby parking lots, including a nearby church, under police escort.
Children waved happily at their parents as the first buses left the school at about 4:50 p.m.
About 50 parents waiting for their children grew frustrated as they lined up on Benjamin Weldon Bickers Drive, saying they had not received updates from police or school officials.
Lashanda Williams, who has a seventh-grade son in the school, said, “We want to know who the injured child is. We are all wondering, ‘What if it is our child?’” Parent Michelle Watts said she was called at about 2:15 p.m. by her sixth-grade son’s teacher, alerting her that her son was OK but there had been a shooting.
“He is very scared. He said on the phone, ‘Please come get me, please come get me,’” Watts said.
Parent April Hood said parents received a text message from APS at 3 p.m. saying a student had been shot and a teacher had been hurt. Hood is the parent of an eighth-grader.
“I’m worried about my baby,” said Hood. “I think they need to have more security at the school. This is ridiculous.” Wanaka Harrison, who has a daughter in seventh grade, said she believes the shooting was not random, but a fight between two students.
“What happened up there,” she said, while pointing at the school, “could have happened anywhere. This kid was wanting to shoot this kid. If anything, these kids are fighting too much.”
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, in a news release, said, “Gun violence in and around our schools is simply unconscionable and must end.
“Too many young people are being harmed, and too many families are suffering from unimaginable and unnecessary grief. I pray that the student who was shot today at Price Middle School in southwest Atlanta recovers quickly and can return home to family and friends,” Reed said. “I would also like the students, faculty and families of the Price Middle School community to know that they have the full support of the City of Atlanta as they heal from today’s terrible incident. The city’s Employee Assistance Program counselors are already at the school providing guidance for students, faculty and family members.” Initial police reports were that the shooting was at Carver High School. Carver High and Slater Elementary were also on lockdown.