Heroes jump into action to keep students safe during Aztec school shooting

AZTEC, N.M. (KRQE) – As people begin to process the tragic shooting that happened Thursday, more and more stories are coming out about the heroes in it all.

“We started reading a story. We had the lights off and then we heard ‘pop pop,'”

Junior Hunter Medina says he was in U.S. History when he heard the gunshots yesterday morning at Aztec High School. He says his teacher didn’t hesitate.

“Mr. Polk, he acted so quickly and called… He’s a hero, truly,” said Medina. “He told us to put books up in front of our chest, so I was handing everybody books. Everybody was in the corner of the classroom.”

He says Mr. Polk locked the classroom door and pushed a desk up against it.

In another classroom, San Juan County Sheriff says 74-year-old substitute teacher Kathleen Potter also acted quickly to protect her students.

“When she heard the shooting going on… She didn’t have a key to lock because she’s a substitute. She didn’t have a key to lock the door so she took all the kids and put them into an office area in a supply room or storage, and they barricaded the door with a couch,” said Sheriff Ken Christensen.

The Sheriff says a custodian, Thomas Hill, shouted warnings.

“He heard the shots, spotted the shooter and followed him through there, screaming at the shooter as he pursued him, yelling at teachers to ‘Lockdown, we have an active shooter.”

It’s brave, split-second decisions like that that saved students like Medina. Later, he learned his friend, 17-year-old Paco Fernandez, was not as lucky.

“He went to the bathroom and never came back,” Medina said.

Fernandez encountered the shooter in the bathroom, sparking the first gunshots that put the school on lockdown before the killer could get into a classroom full of students, like he had planned.

Medina says Fernandez is a hero.

“Paco saved so many lives. If that guy would have gone through with his plan, he could have easily gone into my classroom,” Medina said.

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