There were more questions than answers on Tuesday after a 15-year-old freshman shot himself in the head with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol in front of his English class at Lecanto High School that morning.
The student, who was not identified, survived. No one else was injured.
The boy was flown to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, where he was listed in critical condition, according to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office. After the shooting, deputies said he was conscious and talking to them before the medical helicopter landed.
But school and law enforcement officials could provide few answers afterward: Why did the student do it? Who did the gun belong to and how did he get it? What happened in the classroom moments before the teenager pulled the trigger?
The incident took place about 10:30 a.m. Investigators will sift through the contents of the student’s backpack and locker to try to determine why he did it and if he had planned to target anyone else.
Immediately after the shooting, school administrators ushered the other students who were in the English class to another part of the building so that victim advocates could tend to them, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Lindsay Blair.
There were about 22 students in the class, which was being held in the Freshman Academy, a wing within the high school dedicated to classes for freshmen.
“The students were distraught,” Blair said. “Nothing like this has ever happened before at this school.
“And he was a friend, a classmate. They were obviously shaken up, as anyone would be.”
The teacher who was in the classroom when the student turned the gun on himself declined to speak to a Tampa Bay Times reporter on Tuesday.
Citrus County School District assistant superintendent Mike Mullen said he heard the wounded teen described as “quiet” and “a good kid.”
The school will be closed as scheduled today for Veterans Day. But crisis counselors will be available at the high school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to talk with students and parents.
The shooting spurred deputies to put the entire Lecanto School Complex on lockdown until they determined there was no threat to other students or staff members. The complex comprises five schools: the high school, an elementary school, a middle school, a school for developmentally disabled students and an alternative school.
“We went into active shooter mode right when we knew what was going on,” Blair said. “We definitely train for this.”
Bringing a gun to a school is a crime, Blair said, though she doesn’t know if the wounded student will face charges.
There are four student resource officers assigned to the complex. Students do not have to pass through metal detectors upon entering the schools.
“How many schools in Florida have metal detectors?” Mullen asked. “Who knows if that would prevent it or not.”
Before Tuesday evening’s School Board meeting, board member Thomas Kennedy asked the Rev. Stephen Lane of Faith Lutheran Church in Lecanto to start the proceedings with a prayer.
“Today, in Citrus County, we had a tragedy,” Kennedy said. “Today, we are all Panthers.”