STILLWATER — A gunshot rang out at an Oklahoma junior high school before classes began Wednesday, terrifying teenagers who feared a gunman was on the loose.
Soon, though, students learned no one else was in danger. One of their eighth-grade classmates had taken his own life, shooting himself in the head with a handgun in the hall, authorities said.
“Throughout the entire thing, we all thought someone shot someone else,” said student Paiton Gardner, 14. “We didn’t know it was a suicide. We were freaking out.”
Some students bolted outside Stillwater Junior High. Staffers quickly locked down the building and evacuated the rest of the school’s 700 eighth- and ninth-graders, along with students from an adjacent elementary school, police Capt. Randy Dickerson said.
Dickerson said the 13-year-old didn’t leave a note, and authorities said they don’t know why he killed himself. Superintendent Ann Caine, who oversees the district about 70 miles west of Tulsa, said there weren’t any reports that the teen had been bullied.
“There is no indication that that’s what occurred,” Caine said. She said the teen was a good student who got along with other kids.
About 120 people attended a vigil Wednesday evening at Highland Park United Methodist Church.
Hana Sumpter, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, said she was friends with the boy and was standing nearby when the student shot himself.
“I heard the gunshot. I turned around and he was on the floor,” Sumpter said, adding that he had given no indication of problems beforehand.
The Rev. Derrek Belase led the group in prayer. Members of the student’s family did not attend the service.
Police wouldn’t say where the weapon came from or how the eighth-grader got it into the school. Caine said there aren’t any metal detectors but expects there will be discussions about the policy.