Students, officials react to Marshall Co High School shooting

Updated: Jan. 23, 2018 at 7:58 PM EST
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BENTON, KY (WAVE) - The town of Benton is mourning after a shooting at Marshall County High School took the lives of two and injured at least 17 others on Tuesday morning.

It was the first deadly school shooting in 2018. 15-year-old Bailey Nicole Holt died at the scene and 15-year-old Preston Ryan Cope died at the hospital.

One of the 19 injured has been identified. Special needs student Daniel Austin, 17, suffered a gun shot wound to the right arm, according to his mother.

Austin's mother said that when the gunfire stopped, a teacher and fellow student rushed to Austin's side and then drove him to the hospital. Austin is expected to be okay.

RELATED STORY >> MARSHALL CO SCHOOL SHOOTING UPDATE: 2 students dead, 17 others wounded

Students who were inside the school when gunfire rang out are sharing their experiences. Many students say they thought the shots were fireworks at first. Others said they thought someone had gotten into a fight. Once students realized the sounds were gunshots, they ran from the school. Many ended up at a McDonald's more than a mile away. A business owner near the school said he provided shelter for 50 to 100 students.

"I hear some gunshots and thought it was some kid with firecrackers or something," student Ethan Holder said. "I look back its someone with a gun. We ran into the gym where everyone else was going towards a certain direction, I decided to cut off from them and go down the stairs."

One person reported seeing dozens of students jumping into cars or running down the highway, all the while, parents and siblings were trying to find their loved ones. Jesse Hall has a brother who attends Marshall County High School and shared what his brother experienced during the shooting.

"I guess he was walking behind the guy," said Hall. "When he walked in he thought it was just someone, you know banging on the lockers. But it turned out to be gunshots. Then he started taking off running toward the tech building."

Hall expressed his sympathies to the other victims.

"I'm glad he's safe and I feel bad for these families outside right now," said Hal. "Like, it's really sad. Really, really emotional time right now for all these families."

Hall says his brother's friends jumped into action, dragging people out of the doors and into safety.

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As soon as Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin heard of the mass casualty shooting, he ran from the state capitol and flew to the scene.

"This is a wound that is going to take a long time to heal," said Bevin.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders began Tuesday's White House press briefing by addressing the shooting.

"The President has been briefed on the shooting at Marshall County High School in Kentucky.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families there, and we offer our sincerest appreciation to the heroic Marshall County deputy who apprehended the shooter."

Marshall County Schools superintendent Trent Lovett released the following statement:

Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders responded immediately to Benton on Tuesday. Commissioner Sanders says there was a Student Resource Officer at the school when the shooting happened.

"The students at that school did exactly as they were trained," Sanders said. "KSP has been in this area recently teaching students and faculty how to respond to an active shooter situation. And everybody in that high school reacted appropriately."

News of the shooting spread quickly throughout the state, and nation. The Kentucky Senate paused from their duties on Tuesday to say a prayer for the victims.

Senate Majority Leader and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell addressed the shooting on the senate floor on Tuesday morning.

"My staff in Western Kentucky is at the high school and in close contact with local officials," said McConnell. "They're monitoring the situation and will be providing me with updates throughout the day. I know I speak for communities across my home state in sending prayers of comfort and healing to students, faculty, and everyone affected by this violence. Our hearts are with the entire community in Marshall County and our gratitude is with the first responders who rushed into harm's way."

Louisville Metro Council President David James issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, expressing deep sorrow for the loss of life at the mass casualty school shooting.

"The Louisville Metro Council would like to extend our thoughts and prayers on behalf of those at Marshall County High School, specifically the students, teachers and families who were touched today by violence. Everyone should be proud of the first responders who quickly got this situation under control to stop the violence. They, like first responders everywhere, protect us and work to keep us safe. Now that grieving and healing have begun, we want the people of Marshall County to know they are not alone at this time of sorrow."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he'd spoken to Governor Matt Bevin.

The shooter was seen being taken away in handcuffs from the scene. Kentucky State Police say the 15-year-old will be charged with murder and attempted murder. A possible motive has not been released. Police have not identified him.

Prayer vigils are being organized in honor of the victims of Tuesday's mass casualty shooting.Several churches and surrounding school districts have spread the word of prayer time through social media. Click here to see the list of services.

In addition to prayer services, #prayformarshallcounty is trending on social media.

Tuesday's school shooting comes days after the 20 year anniversary of the Heath High School shooting that left three dead and injured five in Paducah, just 30-miles from Benton. The 14-year-old shooter accepted a plea deal to opening fire on a group of high school students that were praying. That teen wrapped a shotgun and a rifle in a blanket, and had a loaded pistol in his backpack.

As a part of the plea deal, the shooter was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

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