A Bend High School student shot and killed himself in a modular classroom amid other students Friday afternoon, bringing police and medics rushing to the scene as the school was placed in lockdown for several hours, officials said.
The student fatally shot himself in a modular classroom around noon with a gun he brought onto the Sixth Street campus, Police Chief Jim Porter confirmed at a late-afternoon news conference.
Porter confirmed other students were present but declined to say how many or describe the type of weapon. He also did not identify the student, noting police policy regarding suicides. But he said the tragic situation was “contained immediately.”
“The loss of any student is a tragedy,” Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Ron Wilkinson said. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends, staff and students.”
Wilkinson said the staff handled the crisis in an “awesome manner” and also had praise for students who were locked down on campus for at least two hours, with little information but plenty of reports flying via texts and social media about what happened.
“At first, I thought it was a drill,” one student said of hearing the first loudspeaker announcement of the lockdown. “But he sounded scared — and then he came on a second time and I realized it was real — came on a third time, knew it was real.”
Several parents expressed frustration to NewsChannel 21 on the scene about not being informed by police or authorities about what had transpired, sparking frustration and fear. Others were grateful their children had texted them from classrooms to say they were alright.
School district spokeswoman Julianne Repman said the Bend High campus will be closed all weekend due to the investigation, so churches or other groups that use the buildings will not meet there. Crisis counselors will be available for all who wish to speak with them on Saturday at Bear Creek Elementary School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
School psychologist and Director of Special Programs Sean Reinhart urged parents and students “be vigilant and look out for signs” of young people at risk of suicide.
He spoke of hearing “individuals talk about wanting to die, wanting to kill themselves,” acting hopeless or anxious, acting recklessly, or showing signs of withdrawal or feelings of isolation. He offered two numbers for those seeking help, one local — 541-322-7500 — and the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available at 1-800-273-TALK or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
In a Facebook posting Friday night, Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty offered thoughts and prayers to all touched by the “tragic and shocking events.”
He noted that Deschutes County Behavioral Health offers 24-hour crisis intervention, by phone or face to face. The 24-hour phone line is 800-875-7364.
He also said the county’s Victims’ Assistance Program is working with Oregon Crime Victims Compensation and the school district to coordinate funding for extended counseling. More information is expected to be available through the school district on Monday.
In a release issued before the news conference, Bend police Lt. Kurt Koester did not identify the student, nor provide a gender or age, but said no one else was injured and there was no threat to the school or public. He said police and school officials worked to systematically release students from school.
Here’s the complete announcement from Bend-La Pine Schools, posted to their Facebook page:
“Bend Police and Emergency Responders were called to Bend Senior High School shortly after a noon 9-1-1 call that a student had allegedly committed suicide on campus. The school is in lockdown at this hour as police investigate the situation. There is no further threat to students or staff and the building is secure. A crisis team has arrived on campus and is meeting with those affected.
“Staff will begin escorting students out of the building, by wing, to their vehicles, buses, and off campus – for pedestrians and bike riders – at approximately 2:35pm. Student pedestrians and drivers will exit campus via the 6th Street and Clay campus exit. Parents can pick up their students at the Presbyterian Church on 9th Street. Campus will remain closed to visitors through the weekend.
“Students, staff or community members who would like to meet with counselors, at no cost, can drop in to Bear Creek Elementary School between 9am – 2pm tomorrow.
“All evening activities are cancelled at Bend Senior High.
“Our hearts go out to the students, staff and our community at Bend Senior High School.
“Normally, the District and law enforcement would not share public information regarding a suicide, but due to the circumstances, the District felt it important to share this sad information with families and the community,” the announcement concluded.
Koester said the investigation was being assisted by Oregon State Police and the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office.
Earlier, the district had said, “Police report that there is no further danger to students or staff at the school.”
Ninth Street was closed and monitored by staff, according to initial scanner reports, which also indicated crisis workers were arriving on scene.