A student opened fire Tuesday at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., killing two fellow students and injuring 18 others, officials said, in a shooting that caused panic and anguish in the school and across the community.
During an evening news conference, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Richard Sanders said the suspect, a 15-year-old boy, was in custody and would be charged with two counts of murder and several counts of attempted murder.
Authorities were seen escorting a handcuffed boy away from the scene earlier in the day. Details on a possible motive were unclear.
“He was apprehended by the sheriff’s department here on site, at the school, thankfully before any more lives could be taken,” Kentucky State Police Lt. Michael Webb said during an afternoon press conference.
Officials have not yet determined whether the suspect will be charged as a juvenile or adult, Sanders said.
The shooting unfolded around 8 a.m. after the teenager entered the school with a handgun, authorities said. The suspect immediately began firing and struck 14 people, Sanders said.
The injured people were all believed to be students, according to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.
The two people killed were a 15-year-old girl, Bailey Nicole Holt, and a 15-year-old boy, Preston Ryan Cope, Sanders said. Holt died at the scene while Cope died at the hospital. Fifteen people suffered from gunshot wounds, while others were injured trying to escape the scene, investigators said.
Bevin said the suspect was apprehended in a nonviolent manner. He said the incident was an ongoing investigation.
“This is a wound that is going to take a long time to heal,” Bevin said.
The governor later added on Twitter that the community would “get through this dark day together.”
Mitch Garland, whose son is a student there, told The Associated Press he saw 100 children running out of the school and seeking safety after the shots started to ring out.
“They was running and crying and screaming,” he said. “They was just kids running down the highway. They were trying to get out of there.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul tweeted his thoughts and prayers to the victims of the shooting.
“Deeply saddened by the tragic news out of Benton, KY this morning and closely monitoring the situation. We mourn the lost and are praying for those who were injured as well as their families, friends, and the heroic first responders.”
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell also tweeted his thoughts to those impacted by the shooting.
“Closely tracking reports of the tragedy in Benton, Kentucky at Marshall County High School and my thoughts are with the students, teachers, faculty, and the entire community. Thank you to the first responders who continue to put themselves in harm’s way to protect others,” he tweeted.
Rep. James Comer, who represents Kentucky’s 1st congressional district, tweeted the first official indication there had been an incident at the school: “My thoughts & prayers go out to the students & faculty at Marshall County High School where there has been a tragic school shooting.”
State Rep. Will Coursey, who said he was an alum of the high school, tweeted his thoughts to those affected by the violence.
Lexie Waymon, 16, said she and a friend were talking about the next basketball game, makeup and eyelashes when gunshots pierced the air.
“I blacked out. I couldn’t move. I got up and I tried to run, but I fell. I heard someone hit the ground. It was so close to me,” Waymon said. “I just heard it and then I just, everything was black for a good minute. Like, I could not see anything. I just froze and did not know what to do. Then I got up and I ran.”
Waymon did not stop running, not even when she called her mom to tell her what happened. She made it to the McDonald’s, her chest hurting, struggling to breathe. “All I could keep thinking was, ‘I can’t believe this is happening. I cannot believe this is happening,’” she said.
It was chaotic outside the school as parents and students rushed around trying to find each other, said Dusty Kornbacher, who owns a nearby floral shop. “All the parking lots were full with parents and kids hugging each other and crying and nobody really knowing what was going on,” he said.
Barry Mann said his 14-year-old son was put on a bus and taken to another school to be picked up.
“He gave me a call as soon as he run out the door and I didn’t know what was happening to him,” he told the AP. “It sounded like his heart was in his throat.”
Garland said his son, a 16-year-old sophomore, jumped into someone’s car and sped away before joining others inside his business.
“Everyone is just scared. Just terrified for their kids,” Garland said. “We’re a small town and we know a lot of the kids.”
The community is about 120 miles northwest of Nashville, Tenn.
The shooting came one day after a student opened fire in Italy High School, about 45 miles south of Texas early Monday. A female student was recovering Tuesday after police said she was shot by a 16-year-old classmate in the school’s cafeteria. The suspect has been taken into custody and charged with the shooting of the girl.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.