2 killed, 18 injured in shooting at Kentucky high school; Student arrested

(Photo: WKRN)

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BENTON, Ky. (WKRN) – Two students were killed and 18 others were hurt after authorities say a teen opened fire at a Kentucky high school Tuesday morning.

Authorities said the gunman, a 15-year-old student who has been taken into custody, entered Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, with a handgun at 7:57 a.m. and began firing. The Associated Press reports it happened in the “commons” area of the school.

Emergency crews respond to Marshall County High School after a fatal school shooting Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Benton, Ky. Authorities said a shooting suspect was in custody. (Ryan Hermens/The Paducah Sun via AP)

The first 911 call came in at 7:59 a.m., two minutes after the shooting started, and first responders arrived at 8:06 a.m.

PHOTOS: Shooting at Kentucky high school

Two students, both 15 years old, were killed. They were identified by state police as Bailey Nicole Holt, who died at the scene, and Preston Ryan Cope, who died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

“We have two 15-year-old high school students killed, just showing up for school,” said  Lt. Michael Webb with Kentucky State Police. He added, “It’s a sad day here in this state that we have to address such a matter.”

Eighteen others were injured. Of those, 16 suffered gunshot wounds, while four sustained injuries while trying to escape, although exact details on how they were hurt weren’t released.

CNN has identified one of the surviving victims as Daniel Austin, 17. His mother said he was shot in the right arm. She told CNN that when the gunfire stopped, a teacher and fellow student rushed to help Daniel, who has special needs, and drove him to the hospital.

Daniel Austin was shot in the arm. (Courtesy: CNN)

None of the other victims’ identities have been released at this time.

Of the victims, six were taken to Vanderbilt’s hospital–one of whom was the 15-year-old boy who died.

Of the five still in Vanderbilt’s care, doctors said they are between the ages of 14 to 18 and each is expected to survive. Four are boys listed in critical bust stable condition, and one is a girl in stable condition.

“This is the first time this institution has had to deal with a mass casualty from a school shooting, and I don’t think it’s someone anyone can be prepared for fully,” said Dr. Oscar Guillamondegui, M.D., MPH, Medical Director of Trauma ICU.

“We have to cut our emotions off when trying to save someone’s life, but you can’t hold that within yourself for a long period of time,” said Dr. Rick Miller, M.D., Chief of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care. “We have to debrief and discuss this among ourselves. Because we, too, suffer from this, but our job is to keep people alive. We will do anything in our power to do that and try and cut our emotions off while doing that.”

He continued, “It’s the aftermath that really affects us. When everything is said and done and all the patients are doing okay, then we sit back and that’s when it’s tough on us. So we all have to take care of ourselves.”

An update wasn’t immediately known on the other victims.

Officials said the accused gunman will be charged with murder and attempted murder. Neither the gunman’s identity nor a motive for the shooting have not been released.

(Photo: WKRN)

Authorities also noted a school resource officer (SRO) was at the high school at the time of the shooting, and students reportedly did exactly as they should have in an active shooter situation.

One student who was in the library at the time of the shooting told News 2, “If we wouldn’t have known what to do right then, I think everyone would have just been running around crazy.”

After the news broke, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin called the situation a “tremendous tragedy,” saying the shooting speaks to “the heartbreak present in our communities.”

“It is unbelievable that this would happen in a small, close-knit community like Marshall County. As there is still much unknown, I encourage people to love on each other at this time. Do not speculate, but come alongside each other in support and allow the facts to come out,” Gov. Bevin continued.

Hours after the shooting, a heavy police presence remained at the high school as investigators combed the large crime scene. The investigation is ongoing and the school is expected to remain closed for a few days.

A counseling center will be open at the old Pepsi Bottling Plant at 1531 Highway 641 North, Benton, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. beginning Wednesday morning. A family resource center has been set up at the Kentucky Agriculture Extension Office at 1533 Mayfield Highway, Benton.

A prayer circle for Marshall County High School will be held Wednesday morning at 7:10 a.m. at Paducah Tilghman High School. Students from all schools are invited. Several other vigils are also planned in the coming days.

Briensburg United Methodist Church on Briensburg Road in will also be holding a prayer vigil on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Benton, Kentucky, is located about 120 miles northwest of Nashville. Marshall County High School has around 1,300 students and 74 teachers.

Tuesday’s shooting comes just one day after a shooting at a Texas high school. According to the Associated Press, the anti-violence group Everytown for Gun Safety has counted at least 283 shootings at schools since 2013.

Click here for complete coverage of the Marshall County High School shooting.