By Chris Day
A Stillwater Junior High School student apparently died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Wednesday morning at the school, Stillwater police and school officials confirmed.
The victim has been identified as Cade Poulos, 13, Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson said.
Stillwater school superintendent Ann Caine said at 11:30 a.m. press conference outside the school administration building “I’ve been 34 years in education and never a situation like this. You are never ready for a day like this.”
Caine said the school system’s evacuation plan worked perfectly.
School counselors were at the junior high immediately. Grief counseling will be available to students and teachers.
The 7:50 a.m. incident caused an immediate lockdown at Stillwater Junior High School, 1900 N. Skyline St. and nearby Skyline Elementary School.
Junior high school students were evacuated to Cimarron Plaza where they were reunited with their parents. The lockdown was lifted at Skyline Elementary School. Those students completed their school day.
State Sen. Jim Halligan arrived at Cimarron Plaza shortly after 9 a.m. The former Oklahoma State University president said he was impressed by the coordination of police and school officials.
“It has been emotional to be able to see the reunion of parents and children,” Halligan said.
Caine said the shooting incident happened at 7:50 a.m. In a message to parents and staff, the superintendent said a student died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“All other students and staff are safe,” she wrote.
Dickerson confirmed a junior high school student had died. Police officer, he said, were investigating.
School officials locked down the junior high school, which was eventually evacuated.
Stillwater ninth-grader Logan Fleisher said the lockdown announcement was made over the school’s public address system.
“It was 7:58 a.m. when they called over the PA system. They said go to the nearest classroom, turn out the lights and lock the door,” Fleisher said.
Fleisher said the lockdown lasted until about 9 a.m.
Buses had arrived by then. The junior students were loaded on the buses and driven to Cimarron Plaza. School officials had asked parents to pick up the students in the parking lot.
School officials checked parent’s identification before releasing students into their care.
Cross Brand Cowboy Church youth pastor John Brown’s sister is an eighth-grader at Stillwater Junior High. Once he learned she was safe, Brown said he went to Cimarron Plaza to provide counseling if needed.
“At that point, I knew I needed to be there as a pastor,” he said.
Cross Brand Cowboy Church Pastor Tyler McDowell also went to Cimarron Plaza to help in any way possible.
“We are certainly praying for everyone involved. We don’t want to get in the way, but we wanted to be here if we are needed,” McDowell said.
Students said the shooting occurred in what they called “The Pit,” a student gathering area in the middle of the school complex. It is located in front of the school’s library.
The police said the shooting occurred in a school hallway.
“No one else was injured,” Dickerson said. “No one else was in danger.”
The police department spokesman didn’t know if any students witnessed the shooting. “I assume so,” he said. “The hallway was probably full of kids that time of day.”
Stillwater Junior High students said the shooting caught them off-guard.
“Everyone thought it was a joke at first,” ninth-grader Ashlyn Lundholm said. “Then, I heard people screaming. Then, we went to lockdown for 35 to 40 minutes.”
An eighth-grade student said he witnessed the shooting.
“I saw him on the ground,” Aaron Veselak said. “There was blood all around his head.”
Here is the text of Superintendent Caine’s message to parents and staff.
“It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of a tragic incident at our JH this morning. At 7:50 am one of our students died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. All other students and staff are safe. The JH is currently in lockdown and closed for the day. We are busing the JH students to Cimarron Plaza to be picked up by their parents. Skyline was on temporary lockdown but is now open. All of our schools, with the exception of the JH, are open today. We have sent counselors to Cimarron to be available to our students. We have not released the name of the student, pending notification of next of kin.”