Junior Onix Silva said she saw Assistant Principal David Propst sprint down the C200 hall between the first period and homeroom on Wednesday. Five minutes later, around 9:45 a.m., Propst called for a “soft lockdown,” in a more strained tone than usual. Within a minute, the status was upgraded to a “hard lockdown” and teachers were told to lock their doors.
Police cars began to arrive and an ambulance turned onto Eighth Street. Rumors circulated, but a general consensus had been reached: at approximately 9:40 a.m., a gun in a female senior’s pocket had discharged, shooting her in the thigh.
The afflicted student was then transported to Grady Memorial Hospital Trauma Center where she was treated for non life-threatening injuries. APD spokesman Carlos Campos said she has been jailed, charged with felony possession of a pistol by a minor and three misdemeanors: carrying a weapon within a school safety zone, reckless conduct and disruption of a public school.
“I heard a pop when I was on the way to the gym and I thought it was firecrackers,” custodian William Germany said. After the gunshot, which APS Superintendent Erroll Davis described as an “accidental discharge,” the injured student limped towards the door at the top of the stairs on the cafeteria end of the courtyard and proceeded to the nurse’s office, followed closely by Germany. Multiple people at the scene declined to comment.
Southerner writer Joe Lavine reported seeing a pink Taurus PT 733 .380 handgun lying in the grass near the bench between the catwalk and the Charles Allen building, where the incident occurred.
In an announcement over the intercom system, Principal Vincent Murray affirmed the rumors. “A student suffered a self-inflicted gun wound and has been taken to Grady Hospital,” Murray said. Students were also told not to enter the area near the discipline and nurses offices because, Germany said, “There was blood on the floor and it was considered a crime scene.”
By 10:30 am, a helicopter was circling Grady’s campus and news crews began to arrive. State trooper cars filed onto Eighth Street and roped it off with yellow caution tape.
As police officers and APS officials investigated the crime scene, Grady’s library became “command center” for the dozens of concerned parents checking out their children. “It got very chaotic,” said media specialist Lisa Taft.
“Safety is the first priority; we are safe,” said Murray over the intercom. “Any outlying situation is being handled,” he said. But some students remained concerned for their well-being.
“Of course, three days after they upped the ante on security, this happens,” said junior Charlie Menefee. Menefee was referring to the advanced security measures the staff has implemented over the past week, in light of the recent shooting at Price Middle.
Upon entering Grady this week, students have been required to remove their backpacks, which are checked by teachers. Students then walk through a metal detectors and are wanded. These measures have led to long lines stretching into the courtyard and out onto Eighth Street.
Davis said the student arrived at school late and did not go to the Attendance Office to receive a late pass, so she was not subject to the new security checks.
Davis was already scheduled to speak at Grady on Feb. 27 concerning the new security policies employed this week. “Our schools were designed to be places of learning,” said Davis. “They were not designed to be fortresses.”
Davis said that plans to hire “full-time officers that can spot emotional problems” are in the works.
Davis affirmed that possessing a firearm at school is grounds for expulsion and, according to the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, is a felony. Under GFZA, only on-duty law enforcement and school security can discharge a firearm on public, school property.