A 15-year-old student was injured in a shooting in her high school cafeteria Monday morning and a 16-year-old boy, also a student at the school, was taken into custody, Ellis County sheriff’s officials said.
The girl was airlifted to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas after the shooting in the small town of Italy, some 45 miles south of Dallas, said sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Fitzgerald. The shooting happened about 7:50 a.m.
“In a small town, the school district is the center of what goes on for our kids, and this morning’s tragedy hits the heart of this community,” said Lee Joffre, superintendent of the Italy school district, which has about 600 students.
Joffre said that on a typical morning, there would be 45 to 55 students in the cafeteria.
Sheriff Chuck Edge said the shooter “engaged the victim” and fired several shots from a semi-automatic .380 handgun before being confronted by a school district staffer and fleeing.
Edge did not say at a Monday afternoon news conference how many times the victim was shot. Officials have said they don’t know the relationship between the victim and the shooter. Authorities did not identify either one.
Edge said that after the suspect left the cafeteria, he was arrested by law officers on school grounds. Edge said the handgun was recovered at the scene.
Edge said he did not know what charges the suspect might face. He also said he was not aware of a motive in the shooting and did not know where the suspect acquired the firearm.
Edge referred questions about the girl’s condition to the hospital, and Parkland spokeswoman April Foran said she could give no information.
When asked whether the suspect had any previous disciplinary issues at the school, Joffre said the district cannot release such information.
A fellow student said the suspect has been violent at school in the past.
Cassie Shook, 17, told The Associated Press that she was just arriving at Italy High School when the shooting happene. She said she saw the cafeteria doors fly open and a rush of students running out after the girl was shot.
Shook said she had complained about the suspect at least twice before to school officials, including a vice principal. She said the first time was after he made a “hit list” in eighth grade and her name was on it.
She said that last year the boy got angry during a class and threw a pair of scissors at a girl. She said he also threw a computer against a wall. Shook said police came to talk to the class, and that the boy was removed from the school but eventually was allowed back.
School officials said they cannot comment on disciplinary actions involving students.
Joffre said school will be in session Tuesday and grief counselors will be on campus.
Italy, which promotes itself as “The Biggest Little Town In Texas,” has about 2,000 residents and is just off Interstate 35 between Dallas and Waco.