2 Students Dead, 18 More Hurt In Kentucky School Shooting

Posted at 8:43 AM, Jan 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-24 19:00:42-05

Two 15-year-old students have been killed and over a dozen injured in a shooting at the beginning of the school day at Marshall County High School in western Kentucky.

Officials said 15-year-old Bailey Nicole Holt was killed at the scene, and 15-year-old Preston Ryan Cope died from his injuries after being transported to a local hospital. Both were students at the school. 

The shooter was identified as a 15-year-old male. His identity was not released. 

Kentucky State Police Commissioner Richard Sanders said the suspect was armed with a handgun when he walked into the school at the 7:57 a.m. – just before first classes were scheduled to begin – and started shooting. 

By 7:59 a.m. emergency dispatchers received the first 911 call. First responders arrived at the scene at 8:06 a.m. 

Investigators did not release information about what happened during those nine minutes. 

Trent Lovett, superintendent of Marshall County Schools, released the following statement:

"A tragedy beyond words occurred in our community [Tuesday]. I know that, as parents, our greatest fear is something happening to our children, and [Tuesday] that fear became a reality. Our courageous faculty and staff at all levels were outstanding in their response to [Tuesday's] tragedy. We appreciate the quick action of our dedicated first responders. I ask you all as a community to wrap your arms around these families and around these students, as you always have. We deeply appreciate the outpouring of support that we have received from colleagues and communities across the state and the nation. Our children are our future, our greatest gift, and our foremost priority. Hold your children close tonight as you gather together at vigils, churches, and homes and please bear with us as we struggle to return to some sense of normalcy. Together with the community we will begin the long healing process within our schools. God be with us all."

The first deputy from the Marshall County Sheriff’s office who arrived on the scene was able to take the suspect into custody at the school. Governor Matt Bevin said he was apprehended without incident. 

Officials said 20 people were injured, including the two students who were killed. Of those 20, 14 were males and six were females, ages 14 to 18.

“Our belief is that each person who was shot was a student,” Bevin said at a noon press conference. 

They were working with hospitals to confirm. 

Of the 20 people injured, officials said 16 people were shot and another 4 had “non-gunshot wounds.” Those students were injured trying to escape the gunfire. 

Patients were transported to multiple hospitals. Vanderbilt received five students by helicopter and one female student by ground. 

Vanderbilt trauma doctors said Preston Cope was among those patients, but they were unable to save him. 

Dr. Oscar Guillamondegui said the teen suffered a "non-survivable gunshot wound to the brain."

As of Wednesday morning, four male patients were listed in critical, but stable condition, and the female patient was listed in stable condition.

Vanderbilt doctors said the additional patients were expected to survive their injuries. 

"When this happens to you, everything shuts down," said Dr. Rick Miller, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "It's going to take a long time to heal both physically and mentally from these issues for these kids."

"This is the first time that this institution has had to deal with a mass casualty event for a school shooting. I don't think it's something anyone can be prepared for fully," Dr. Guillamondegui said.

Officials did not take questions at the press conference, citing the need to secure an ongoing investigation and avoid providing information that might compromise prosecution in the case. 

One parent told CNN her 17-year-old special needs son was shot in the right arm. She said when the gunfire stopped, a teacher and another student drove him to the hospital for treatment.

There was a school resource officer from the Sheriff’s Office at the school at the time of the shooting, but officials did not talk about the role they played in apprehending the suspect or getting students to safety. 

Bevins said additional details would be released in due time. 

Investigators were gathering evidence from a large crime scene and a number of witnesses. They expected the initial investigation to take a few days. 

KSP Commissioner Sanders said officers had been in the area recently to teach students how to respond during an active shooter situation. He said the students did exactly as they were trained. 

The KSP Critical Response Team was taking the lead in the investigation, with assistance from the FBI and ATF. 

Several police departments from the area responded to assist the Sheriff’s Office with the initial response. 

Officials have asked any witnesses or people with any information about the shooting or the suspect to contact Kentucky State Police before speaking with anyone else about what they know. 

Marshall County is located about 90 miles northwest of Clarksville, and about 120 miles from Nashville.

Police said students were taken to a nearby school for pickup.

Bevin released a statement asking the community to come together in support for each other. 

This is a tremendous tragedy and speaks to the heartbreak present in our communities. It is unbelievable tat this would happen in a small, close-knit community like Marshall County. As there is still much unknown, I encourage people to love on each other at this time. Do not speculate, but come alongside each other in support and allow the facts to come out.

The FBI sent a victims specialist to speak wth witnesses or anyone else involved in the shooting.

Two locations were set up as family resource centers. The first was at the Kentucky Agricultural Extension Office at 1933 Mayfield Highway in Benton. Anyone who left supplies or essential items at the school should go to this location. 

A second spot was set up for anyone who needs grief counseling at 1531 US Highway 641 North in Benton.