New Mexico's governor is asking state residents for prayers as police continue to investigate the school shooting that took place Tuesday morning in Roswell, N.M., a town 200 miles southeast of Albuquerque.
"I am asking that all New Mexicans keep these children in your prayers," Gov. Susan Martinez told reporters following the attack, which took place just after 8 a.m. in the gym at the local Berrendo Middle School, when a 12-year-old suspect pulled a sawed-off shotgun out of his bag and began firing at classmates.
State police say the suspect, who has yet to be identified, walked into the crowded gymnasium, packed with close to 500 students waiting for class to begin, and began firing the weapon. The attack reportedly lasted about ten seconds before a teacher and an off-duty policeman, who had been dropping his child off at the school, convinced the student to put down his gun, put his hands up and stand against a wall until police came.
As of Wednesday morning, two students are being treated for wounds from Tuesday's shooting. One victim, an unidentified 11-year-old boy, is in critical condition after undergoing two surgeries and sustaining injuries to his face and neck. The other victim, a 13-year-old girl identified as Kendal Sanders, is in stable condition after suffering injuries to her right shoulder.
School was closed Wednesday as police continue to investigate the shooting and a possible motive for the attack. New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said at a press conference on Tuesday evening that authorities have information that perhaps some students were warned by the preteen shooter not to come to school on Tuesday.
"We have preliminary information that possibly some of the students were warned by the individual prior to the shooting not to go to school," Kassetas said. Police have reportedly executed search warrants for the suspect's locker, his backpack, and his home. The suspect, a seventh grader, is currently in state police custody.
In light of Tuesday's tragic events, one teacher at Berrendo Middle School is being hailed as a hero after he reportedly approached the young gunman and convinced him to drop his weapon. John Masterson, who has been a social studies teacher at the school for the past 10 years, reportedly had his back to the suspect when the young man began shooting. At first thinking the loud pop was a firecracker, Masterson turned around to find the gunman facing him with a sawed off shotgun. Masterson then reportedly told the boy to put down the gun and put his hands up, and then pushed him against a wall as an off-duty policeman arrived to help. The two men held the boy in the gym until police arrived.
Masterson has told the media that police have advised him not to speak on the shooting as an investigation continues, but the heroic teacher did tell The Albuquerque Journal that the experience was "harrowing," adding that "the staff there did a great job" in responding to the shooting and getting all of the children in a safe place.