HARRISBURG, S.D. – No students were harmed when an armed teenager fired a gun in the principal’s office of a small-town South Dakota high school, school officials say.
On Wednesday at 10 a.m., a Harrisburg High School student entered the school’s front office and assaulted the school’s principal, Dr. Kevin Lein, firing a shot that hit him in the arm. Assistant principal Ryan Rollinger tackled the shooter while athletic director Joey Struwe came running from down the hall when he heard the shot. The two restrained the student until police arrived.
“We’ll never know what that student would have done if school staff hadn’t confronted him,” superintendent Jim Holbeck told reporters. “There’s no way of knowing what was in his head.”
Within minutes of placing the 911 call the school was on lockdown, with officers from several local police forces, the Highway Patrol, and the FBI and Homeland Security arriving on the scene.
Holbeck said the school has practiced annual drills for such emergencies. “It’s a shame that schools, for years, have had to learn how to deal with this. You still hope it will never happen in your own back yard.”
Harrisburg’s population is just under 5,000. The school is situated on the edge of town, surrounded by farmland. Its student population is 635, according to the school district’s website.
The shooter, whose name had not been released as of Wednesday afternoon, is in police custody. The Lincoln County State’s Attorney will decide on charges to be filed.
Sioux Falls public information officer Sam Clemens said the student is believed to have acted alone.
Holbeck added that whether the shooter returns to school is up to law enforcement and the courts.
After the shooting, students were bussed to the nearby middle school where parents picked them up. The high school remained on lockdown for the rest of the day, with police stationed at surrounding intersections as well as at all entrances to the school. A bomb squad conducted a full sweep of the premises as an added precaution.
Other area schools remained open, as officials had “no indication something like this would happen again,” Holbeck said.
While students waited for their parents, counselors were available to help them cope.
“Our first priority is that our staff and our students are taken care of, physically and mentally,” Holbeck said.
Holbeck has not yet decided whether the school will be open tomorrow.
“I hope all parents will hug their kids and let them know there are lots of ways to deal with controversy,” Holbeck said. “Violence is not one of them.”
Principal Lein was hospitalized for his injury but is doing well.
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