Police killed student outside Wisconsin school after reports of someone with a weapon, official says

MOUNT HOREB, Wis. — Police shot and killed a Wisconsin student outside a middle school after receiving a report of someone with a weapon Wednesday, the state’s attorney general said in the first law enforcement briefing on gunshots that sent children fleeing and prompted an hourslong lockdown of local schools.

Authorities had previously said an active shooter who never got inside the building was “neutralized” outside Mount Horeb Middle School. State Attorney General Josh Kaul told reporters Wednesday evening that no one else was harmed and that an investigation is continuing.

“This incident took place outdoors. The subject in this case never gained entry,” he said.

Authorities at the briefing described the student as a juvenile male but did not provide an age or any information about which of the Mount Horeb district’s schools he attended.

Kaul declined to answer several questions about what happened once police responded, including whether the student had fired a weapon, what type of weapon he might have had, and whether he had made an effort to get inside the school building. Authorities said multiple Mount Horeb officers, who wore body cameras, had fired weapons but they did not say how many.

Police remained on the scene hours after the incident and students were kept locked down in buildings late into the afternoon before slowly being released to family members.

For panicked kids and their parents, the initial incident and the long wait to be reunited was terrifying. Parents described children hiding in closets, afraid to communicate on cell phones, and one middle schooler said his class initially fled the school gym on in-line skates.

The district used Facebook posts throughout the day to give updates, with the earliest coming around 11:30 a.m. and reporting that all district schools were on lockdown. Authorities in Mount Horeb said without giving details that the “alleged assailant” was harmed, and witnesses described hearing gunshots and seeing dozens of children running.

More than four hours later, school buses remained lined up for blocks outside the middle school and authorities had used police tape to surround the middle school, the nearby high school and playing fields between both buildings.

“An initial search of the middle school has not yielded additional suspects,” a post around noon said. “As importantly, we have no reports of individuals being harmed, with the exception of the alleged assailant.”

Earlier, the district posted that “the threat has been neutralized outside of the building” but didn’t elaborate on what had happened at the school in Mount Horeb, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of the state capital of Madison.

Jeanne Keller said she heard about five gunshots while in her shop The Quilting Jeanne, just down the block from the campus that includes the middle school.

“It was maybe like pow-pow-pow-pow,” Keller told The Associated Press by phone. “I thought it was fireworks. I went outside and saw all the children running … I probably saw 200 children.”

One middle schooler said his class was in the school gym practicing in-line skating when they heard gunshots.

Max Kelly, 12, said his teacher told the class to get out of the school. He said they skated to a street, ditched their in-line skates and ran to a nearby convenience store and gas station where they hid in a bathroom.

Kelly was reunited with his parents and sat on a hillside with them early Wednesday afternoon waiting for his younger siblings to be released from their own schools. He still wore socks, his shoes left behind.

“I don’t think anywhere is safe anymore,” said his mother, 32-year-old Alison Kelly.

Police in Mount Horeb said they could not provide information in the immediate hours after the incident. The Dane County Sheriff’s office directed reporters to a staging area but also provided no updates.

Anxious parents spent hours gathered at a bus depot waiting for their kids. Kaul said law enforcement had been concerned about the possiblity of a continuing threat though he didn’t provide more details. He said investigators sought to interview students as they were reunited with parents, trying to avoid stretching those conversations out over coming days.

Shannon Hurd, 44, and her former husband, Nathian Hurd, 39, sat in a car waiting for their 13-year-old son, Noah, who was still in the locked-down middle school.

Shannon Hurd said she first heard what happened via a text from Noah saying he loved her. She said she nearly fell down the stairs at her work as she ran to get to the school.

“I just want my kid,” she said. “They’re supposed to be safe at school.”

Stacy Smith, 42, was at the bank Wednesday when she saw police cars rush by and soon got a school district text warning of an active shooter.

She initially could not reach her two children — junior Abbi and seventh-grader Cole. Finally, she reached Abbi by phone but the girl whispered that she was hiding in a closet and couldn’t talk. She eventually connected with both children and learned they were OK.

“Not here,” she said in disbelief. “You hear about this everywhere else but not here.”

Schools nationwide have sought ways to prevent mass shootings inside their walls, from physical security measures and active shooter drills to technology including detailed digital maps. Many also rely on teachers and administrators working to detect early signs of student mental health struggles.

Mount Horeb Area School District Superintendent Steve Salerno suggested that without recent security upgrades “this could have been a far worse tragedy.” He said students immediately told school staff about seeing someone outside the building but did not elaborate.

“It’s an experience that you just pray to God every day that you just don’t ever have to enter into,” Salerno told reporters. “Today we were called upon, our staff, these amazing professionals around the table were called upon to act and they did so. And they did so with great professionalism.”

The village is home to around 7,600 people and the central office of outdoor gear retailer Duluth Trading Company. Mount Horeb markets itself as the “troll capital of the world,” a reference to carvings of trolls stationed throughout its downtown district in tribute to a Scandinavian gift shop that was a landmark for passing long-haul truckers in the 1970s.


Associated Press reporters Corey Williams in Detroit and Rick Callahan in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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