A sixth grade girl took a handgun out of her backpack and began shooting in the hallway of an Idaho middle school on Thursday, a rampage that only stopped when a teacher intervened, according to local law enforcement.
Three people — an adult and two students — were injured at Rigby Middle School as the girl shot two inside before exiting the school and shooting another person, Jefferson County Sheriff Steve Anderson said. The victims were shot in their limbs and are expected to survive.
Students inside the school were gripped by terror when they realized the repeated intercom announcements of a school lockdown were not a drill.
"We didn't think anything of it at first, until we heard footsteps in the hallway and then we heard a police siren ... and that's when we started realizing it was real," seventh grader Madison Jensen told Idaho Falls' Local News 8. "I texted everyone I knew."
Yandel Rodriguez, 12, heard three loud noises, "Then there was screaming. ... Our teacher went to check it out, and he found blood.”
Students comforted each other as the events unfolded inside a school where 1,500 students in sixth through eighth grades attend.
"We were freaking out — a few kids were crying. Some kid was sitting next to me I was trying to rub his back, make him feel better," Maren King, a seventh grader, told Local News 8. Moments before, Maren thought the noises were the school principal's attempt to make a lockdown drill seem more realistic.
Lucy Long also comforted her friends as they lined up against a wall, locked down in their classroom. The sixth-grader told the Post Register newspaper in Idaho Falls that she began recording on her phone so police would know what happened if the shooter came in.
“It’s real,” one student said on the audio, mostly filled with whispers. When police directed the students to leave the classroom, Lucy saw blood on the hallway floor.
The shooting ended when a female teacher took the handgun from the shooter and "held her until law enforcement apprehended her," Anderson said.
Authorities are still investigating how the sixth-grader from the nearby city of Idaho Falls got the gun and what motivated her to carry out the attack.
Jefferson School District Superintendent Chad Martin said Schools would be closed district-wide on Friday to give students time to be with their families. Counselors would be available starting Friday.
“This is the worst nightmare a school district could ever face. We prepare for it," Martin said, “but you're never truly prepared.”
Jefferson County Prosecutor Mark Taylor said decisions about criminal charges wouldn't be made until the investigation is complete but that they might include three counts of attempted murder.
Contributing: The Associated Press