A shooting incident at Oregon’s second largest high school Tuesday left two young people dead - a teeaged victim, and the shooter. Police have identified a 14-year-old freshman at Reynolds High School - Emilio Hoffman - as the victim.
Authorities say they have tentatively identified the shooter, but they weren’t confident enough to publicize details late Tuesday. A teacher also sustained injuries that did not threaten his life.
When students first heard the shots at the Reynolds High School gymnasium, they thought they were firecrackers.
“After we heard it again, everybody sprinted to the back hallway, in between the weight room and the gym,” said ninth grader, Brandan Smetana.
Smetana says he and his classmates secured themselves by barricading the door shut. And then, they waited.
“It was 20, 30 minutes later, the police made us open it up, made us come out with our hands up,” Smetana said. “(They) escorted us across the street, and there was probably 40 cop cars or so.”
But before the police showed up - Smetana says the students acted on their own.
“There was no adults around,” said Smetana, “because, it was like, the guy was shooting at the teachers in the other locker room.”
One of the first key figures in responding to the shooting was PE teacher, Todd Rispler, who was wounded in the gunfire.
Troutdale police chief Scott Anderson says Rispler’s actions were critical in getting the word out.
“Despite being injured, (Rispler) was able to make it to the office, and initiate the school lock down procedure,” Anderson said.
Reynolds is one of Oregon’s largest high schools. It’s in the small city of Troutdale, but it serves more than 20 square miles from East Portland to the Sandy River. Parents say it’s not a violent school.
Chief Anderson says the gun shots that killed Emilio Hoffman were fired at the Reynolds High building where the school gym is located.
“It’s a separate, detached building. We know that Emilio was shot and killed in the boys’ locker room. The shooter was located in a separate restroom,” Anderson described.
“As we received the initial reports of an active shooter,” Anderson said, “two Troutdale police school resource officers and two other local police officers responded very quickly. I believe that their quick response saved many of our students’ lives.”
School leaders also credited quick actions by others: students, like Brandan Smetana, and teachers, like Todd Rispler.
Since the 2012 shootings at the nearby Clackamas Town Center and at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, Oregon schools have done more to prepare for violence.
“I especially want to thank our staff and our students, for being able to exit, to being able to lockdown in our school, following our protocol,” said Reynolds School District superintendent, Linda Florence. “It saved lives.”
But the thoughts of people in this Columbia River community were on 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman, who was shot in a school locker room, two days before summer vacation.
Chief Scott Anderson told reporters that he met with Hoffman’s parents.
“I can tell you how devastated they are by this news,” Anderson recalled. “They want you to know that Emilio was a great kid. And he was loved by all.”
Reynolds High School is closed Wednesday. School officials say it’ll stay that way, “until further notice.”