Student opened fire in Roswell school gym
ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – The city of Roswell has become the scene of the nation’s latest school shooting. Two students are injured, a suspect is in custody and the entire town in shock.
The call came in just after 8 a.m. Tuesday. New Mexico State Police and Roswell police rushed to Berrendo Middle School where a student opened fire just as the school day was beginning.
Police say students were in the gym because of bad weather when the suspect, seventh grade student Mason Campbell, opened fire with a shotgun. Police say the shooting lasted 10 seconds in front of about 500 students.
At least two students were injured. A 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl were airlifted to University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas. A staff member was also injured with minor injuries but did not seek medical attention.
The girl’s dad confirmed her identity as Kendal Sanders. She has injuries to her right shoulder. The other victim’s family members did not want his name to be released. He has injuries to his face, according to Gov. Susana Martinez, who spoke at a Tuesday night news conference.
Hospital officials say the boy is in critical condition and the Sanders is in serious condition. Both were originally treated at the hospital in Roswell and then transferred to Lubbock where the boy was quickly taken into surgery. Sanders also had surgery later Tuesday.
One student says he saw one of the victims had been shot in the face. The Associated Press is reporting that the 12-year-old has claimed he was the intended target.
At a news conference with State Police and school officials Tuesday afternoon, it was reported that eighth grade social studies teacher John Masterson stopped the shooter and asked him to set the shotgun down. The shooter did. A State Police lieutenant who was dropping off his own kid at the school took over from there.
Police say the suspect has been caught. Police say Campbell brought the gun to school concealed in a bag. They do not know where Campbell allegedly got the gun and plan to search his home and locker.
As soon as they could, the school was placed on lockdown and students were cleared out.
Berrendo Middle School is on the northern edge of Roswell. It is home to sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Police expect to interview about 100 students about the shooting. As of Tuesday night, they’d spoken with about 60 students.
At afternoon news conference, Superintendent Tom Burris announced Berrendo Middle School will be closed Wednesday.
A prayer vigil took place Tuesday evening at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center. The room was packed with hundreds of those affected by the tragedy. At least one more gathering has been planned by a local church for Wednesday. That gathering will be mostly for the students.
According to State Police, Campbell is a 12-year-old seventh grader at Berrendo Middle School.
Witnesses say he was a nice kid and a member of the middle school football team, and neighbors say he was a good kid who liked music.
The witnesses at the school, though, say they’ll never forget what happened in the school gym Tuesday.
One student says he was terrified for his life as he watched the alleged shooter walk into the gym holding a shotgun.
One witness says the boy didn’t have a backpack and wasn’t wearing a school uniform – the Berrendo school T-shirt all students are required to wear. He says that’s when he thought something was suspicious.
The witness says that’s when the 12-year-old walked toward the bleachers, where a majority of the sixth and seventh graders were sitting. He says then he heard a gunshot:
“We were sitting at the top and the stairs and he was right there. I saw him trying to get on the bleachers. I saw blood splatter then he fell onto the floor,” said 12-year-old Joshua Ramirez.
Ramirez says he heard three gunshots, then saw the suspect throw the shotgun on the floor.
He says that’s when Masterson apprehended the suspect and the school was locked down.
The suspect’s family has hired a high-profile attorney named Bob Gorence to represent their son.
It was a very emotional morning in Roswell.
After police put Berrendo Middle School on lockdown, they notified the students’ parents to pick their kids up at the local mall.
Hundreds of parents rushed to the mall parking lot and waited for their kids to be shuttled by bus to safety. Those parents huddled around praying as they waited for their sons and daughters to arrive.
Family members were finally reunited with their loved ones at around 10 a.m., nearly two hours after the shooting.
“As you’re standing there and you’re waiting to pick up your son, seeing the faces of the children coming out and tears and scared it just breaks your heart to see these kids at such a young age to have to witness and be a part of such a tragedy,” Cathy Seely said.
KRQE News 13 talked to a handful of parents who were just speechless.
All they could say was how relieved and sincerely happy they were to see their kids safe.
By noon, all students had been picked up by their parents.
The FBI is assisting the investigation.
New Mexico’s Last School Shooting
While much of the nation has been rocked by school shootings in recent years, the last one in New Mexico was in 1999 in Deming.
On Nov. 19, 1999, 12-year-old Victor Cordova Jr. opened fire inside the lobby of Deming Middle School.
He hit 13-year-old Araceli Tena in the back of the head. She died the next day.
Before the shooting, Cordova told fellow students he would make history blasting the school.
Investigators later found out that Cordova had been depressed following the recent death of his mother.
Cordova later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to two years in juvenile detention.
Cordova was later returned to his native, Mexico.