Two 17-year-old students were wounded in a shooting Monday at a Virginia high school, and a suspect was in custody, police said.
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said a boy was shot on the side of his face and a girl was shot in her lower leg at Heritage High School. They were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
At least two other people were injured in connection with the shooting and taken to a hospital, Drew said. One person had a "sprained or broken arm" and one person with asthma had "breathing issues," he said. A fifth person may have gone directly to a hospital, he added.
The suspect was a juvenile, police said. It was not immediately clear if the shooter was a student.
Drew said police believe "there was some type of altercation." A call was received about a shootinginside Heritage High School at 11:38 a.m. Monday. Officers responded, evacuated the school and took the victims to area hospitals.
Meanwhile, the FBI and state and local police were searching the school for any students or staff still taking shelter, Drew said.The scene was "a little chaotic," he said.
Students were evacuated and sent to nearby tennis courts, where parents were being instructed to meet them. Videos shared to social media showed students and adults gathered by the fences. Mental health counselors were on the scene.
"There are a lot of folks who were really traumatized by this matter," said George Parker, superintendent of Newport News Public Schools. "No superintendent, no teacher, no principal would want to ever go through this situation – just seeing the faces of our students and how afraid they were under these circumstances, and our staff, who were traumatized."
Parker said the schools regularly run random security checks using dogs and metal detectors. The schools also have shelter-in-place drills throughout the school year.
Students will temporarily switch to virtual learning, Parker said.
About 1,300 students attend Heritage High School, according Newport News Public Schools. Students returned to classes Sept. 8 and were in their second full week at the school. Newport News is located at the southeastern end of the Virginia Peninsula, just north of Norfolk.
"Our prayers are with those hospitalized, their families, and the entirecommunity," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said on Twitter on Monday. "Virginia has made great strides to reduce gun violence – and we have more work to do."
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Jolisa Malone, 33, said she got a text message from her 14-year-old Monday morning telling her there was a shooting at school and asking her to come pick her up. Malone said she quickly drove to the school and encountered a swarm of parents and police.
"To see all these officers and nobody can get in that building and I’m crying – I just wanted my child," Malone said.
Malone said her daughter, a ninth-grader, was in her second week of high school. She's a hands-on learner, and her grades had fallen during virtual learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Malone said.
"I was scared to send her back (to school) during the pandemic with these cases rising. But I was more comfortable to let my high schooler go back than my 6-year-old," she said.
Now, after the shooting, Malone said she plans to keep her 14-year-old out of school for a while.
"There’s a lot going through her head," Malone said.
Several other schools across the U.S. have also seen shootings in school buildings since returning to in-person learning this fall. Several have temporarily switched back to virtual learning.
"While the news crews will eventually leave, many of the students and faculty will carry this event with them for the rest of their lives," Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott said on Twitter Monday afternoon. "It is a cruel irony that schools have only just returned to the classroom for full-time instruction since the start of the pandemic and we are already grappling with another act of senseless of gun violence."