Story Summary

Gunman Opens Fire at Colorado School

A student armed with a rifle opened fire Friday inside a suburban Denver high school, injuring three people before turning the gun on himself, authorities said.

The shooter, identified Friday night as 18-year-old Karl H. Pierson, was targeting the school librarian after being benched from the debate team earlier this week, Sheriff Grayson Robinson told reporters.

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A 17-year-old senior has died after being wounded in a Dec. 13 shooting at a Denver high school, a Colorado hospital said.

“It is with heavy hears that we share that at 4:29 p.m. this afternoon, Claire Davis passed away, with her family at her side,” Littleton Adventist Hospital said in a statement.

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Claire Davis (Family photo)

Davis, a student at Araphaoe High School, had been in critical condition after being shot in the head by a classmate.

“Despite the best efforts of our physicians of our physicians and nursing staff, and Claire’s fighting spirit, her injuries were too severe and the most advanced medical treatments could not prevent this tragic loss of life,” the hospital said.

On Dec. 15, two days after the shooting, Davis’s family had said she was “stable, but in a coma.”

In a statement Saturday evening, her parents thanked those who tried to save her life, and asked for privacy as they grieved the loss of their daughter.

“Last week was truly a paradox in that we lost our daughter, yet we witnessed the wonderful love that exists in the world through the tremendous outpouring of support we received,” the statement said.

The gunman was apparently seeking revenge against a librarian, but killed himself when he could not find the staff member and a school resource officer approached, police said.

Supporters and loved ones of Davis were tweeting to the hashtag #prayforclaire Saturday evening, as they had been doing throughout the week.

The 17-year-old senior critically wounded in Friday’s shooting at a Colorado high school was in a coma Monday after suffering severe head trauma.

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Claire Davis, 17, and alleged shooter Karl Pierson, 18.
(Credit: CNN)

“She is stable, but is in a coma. The first responders got Claire to the right place, at the right time, and the doctors and hospital staff are doing a wonderful job taking care of her,” her family said in a statement.

“We appreciate your continued good thoughts and prayers, and will provide updates as her condition improves.”

Many people were tweeting to the hashtag #prayforclaire.

Among those praying for Claire Davis was the family of the alleged school shooter, 18-year-old Karl Pierson.

In a statement released Monday, the teenager’s parents Barbara and Mark Pierson said Davis and her family “have suffered unimaginably, and we pray for her full recovery.”

“As parents, we loved our son Karl dearly and we are devastated by what happened Friday. We cannot begin to understand why Karl did what he did,” the Piersons said. They also offered prayers “for the entire Arapahoe High School community, as we know your lives are forever changed by this horrific event.”

Police say Pierson was looking for revenge against a librarian, who had cut him from the debate team.

Davis was just a random victim, police said.

She and Pierson did not know each other.

CNN contributed to this report.

Friends of Claire Davis, the 17-year-old senior critically wounded in Friday’s shooting at a Colorado high school, are wondering why bad things happen to good people, yet are thankful she made it through the night.

Davis is in a struggle for her life at a hospital in Littleton, near Arapahoe High School, where a classmate shot her in the head.

She remained in critical condition Sunday.

claire-denver

Police think Claire Davis, 17, was a random victim — in the wrong place at the wrong time when a gunman opened fire at her Colorado school. (Credit: Davis family)

“She is stable, but is in a coma. The first responders got Claire to the right place, at the right time, and the doctors and hospital staff are doing a wonderful job taking care of her,” her family said in a statement.

“We appreciate your continued good thoughts and prayers, and will provide updates as her condition improves.”

Police say the gunman was looking for revenge against a librarian, but couldn’t find the faculty member and killed himself as a school resource officer closed in.

Davis was just a random victim, police surmised, and the gunman and victim didn’t even know each other.

Davis’ classmates spoke well of her. They used words like spunky and bright.

“She was just a very sweet girl. She’s really smart,” August Clary told CNN affiliate KUSA. He said Davis loves to ride horses and “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Hundreds of people attended a vigil for Davis on Saturday night.

Katie Snively, a senior at Arapahoe, said it was important to honor and pray for Claire.

Many people were tweeting to the hashtag #prayforclaire.

“Claire is a hero. our hero. she deserves to be rewarded not only with thanks, but with another chance at life,” Aidan Loughran wrote.

“Thank God for waking us up again and for keeping Claire through the night. Don’t forget to pray as we wake up this morning,” Jonathon Bailey tweeted Sunday.

Davis’ father told CNN affiliate KMGH late Saturday that his daughter is “not doing very well.” The station said doctors are worried about swelling to her brain, according to a family friend.

CNN’s Casey Wian contributed to this report.

Police are eager to learn why Karl Pierson opened fire with a shotgun at his Colorado school Friday.

Colorado-Shooting

A student opened fire Friday inside a suburban Denver high school, injuring at least two people before turning the gun on himself, authorities said. Centennial, Colo., Dec. 13, 2013. (Credit: KDVR/Twitter)

They have asked his parents and will search their home Saturday, but the person who could best answer the question lay lifeless Friday night on the floor of Arapahoe High School in the Denver suburb of Centennial.

The body of the 18-year-old student remained there as part of the crime scene he created when he wounded a student then shot himself, the sheriff said.

Authorities have plenty of evidence to tell them what Pierson did and how he did it, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said.

Plenty of witnesses saw and heard him looking for a faculty member and discharging his weapon.

The halls of the school must have been crowded at the time, he said. It’s a wonder that Pierson’s shots hit only one girl, age 15. She was in critical condition late Friday in a hospital, where she was operated on.

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Karl Pierson, 18, opened fire with a shotgun at his Colorado school Friday, authorities said. (Credit: CNN)

Her blood splattered on another girl, and police initially believed she had been shot, too. But she was and everyone else was unharmed — at least physically. Some of them were treated for panic attacks.

“I’m very grateful for it,” Robinson said.

He credited the quick response time for the fact that Pierson stopped firing on others and turned his weapon on himself. Only five minutes passed from the time deputies received the 911 call that they were standing over the teen’s deceased body, he said.

Robinson said earlier that first reports indicated a time of 14 minutes or less.

The big question still on Robinson’s mind is: “Why?” He has dedicated a team of investigators to answering it.

“That is their key responsibility — to find out about him, find out what his background was,” he said. They worked through the night.

Robinson is confident they will find the right pieces to the puzzle, when they execute search warrants Saturday at Pierson’s home and at his father’s home.

Pierson was a “nice young man,” neighbors told CNN affiliate KUSA. He was an achiever, an athlete, who ran cross country. He had worked on an Eagle Scout project, KUSA reported.

The broadcaster had previous contact with him. It got comments from him a few years ago for a feature news story, and he submitted questions to KUSA for a U.S. Senate debate.

High school senior Frank Woronoff told CNN he had known Pierson since they were freshmen together.

“He was the last person I would expect to shoot up a high school. He was honestly incredibly humble and down to earth. He was a little geeky but in a charming way,” he said.

Pierson also routinely won contests on his speech and debate team, KUSA reported. He showed off his first place and second place trophies online.

That’s where the trouble may have brewed. When Pierson entered the school, he was looking for his debate coach, KUSA reported, sourcing Sheriff Robinson.

Pierson apparently had a “confrontation or disagreement” with a faculty member Robinson said. The shooting was an apparent act of revenge.

He did not know if the wounded girl was a planned or a coincidental victim.

It was on the eve of the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that Pierson walked into Arapahoe High School with its student body of 2,229 who occupy 70 classrooms. He was openly brandishing his weapon.

It was only 10 miles away from the sight of the Columbine High School shooting, in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher in April 1999 before killing themselves.

Pierson asked other students about the whereabouts of the man he was looking for, Robinsin said.

A school janitor spotted him in his tactical gear, he told CNN affiliate KMGH.

“It just looked weird,” Fabian Llerenas said. “He went in and I heard two pops. That’s when I knew. I said, ‘They are shooting in the school.’”

Llerenas said he called 911, and he then escorted the targeted faculty member out of the school.

Pierson had fired at the man but missed, Llerenas told KUSA.

“He was so [shaken] up, he felt the wind hit, out of the shotgun just blew his hair out but it didn’t hit him. It was that scary for him.”

“In my opinion, that was the most important tactical decision that could have been made,” Robinson said. The faculty member “left that school in an effort to try to encourage the shooter to also leave the school.”

Pierson’s body was found later in a classroom, Robinson told reporters. The student appears to have acted alone, he said.

In addition to the shotgun, authorities found two Molotov cocktails inside the school, Robinson said.

One of the Molotov cocktails was burning when officers ran into the school, he said. “The deputies encountered a large amount of smoke.”

The other was “rendered safe,” Robinson said.

While authorities hunted for the student gunman inside the school, students were locked in their classrooms.

Courtney Leytoldt told KMGH she saw a girl, covered in blood, running down the stairs yelling, “Help me, help me, there’s a shooter.”

Leytoldt said she was in yoga class and that her teacher told all the students to get into a closet to protect them.

Ninth-grader Whitney Riley was getting ready to grab her computer from her locker when the shooting began.

“We were having fun and laughing and then, all of a sudden, we heard a really loud bang,” the 15-year-old told CNN.

“My teacher asked what it was and then we heard two more and we all just got up and screamed and ran into a sprinkler system room.”

Inside the windowless room were five students and two teachers. “We were shaking, we were crying, we were freaking out,” Riley said. “I had a girl biting my arm.”

They soon heard people yelling, and walkie-talkies crackling, and then they heard police asking someone to drop the gun, put the gun down, and hold his arms up, she said.

She did not hear another gunshot, though the people doing the talking could have moved farther away, she said. Soon, they heard police ordering them out.

Dozens of students could be seen walking away from the school, with their hands in the air. Some stood in lines at what appeared the high school track field, where they appeared to be undergoing police pat-downs.

Students were then taken by bus to a nearby church where they were reunited with their families, Robinson said. They had to leave their cars in the school parking lot and their belongings in the classrooms overnight.

Gov. John Hickenlooper called the shooting an “all-too-familiar sequence, where you have gunshots and parents racing to the school and unspeakable horror in a place of learning.”

The sheriff felt it not appropriate to bemoan the shooting as a repeat of the Columbine shooting, but he hinted that the response to school shootings has improved since.

He believes that reaction protocols and communication practices put in place are working.

Ana Cabrera reported from Centennial, Ben Brumfield and Chelsea J. Carter reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Suzanne Presto, Carma Hassan, AnneClaire Stapleton, Mayra Cuevas and Melanie Whitley contributed to this report.

Two Molotov cocktails were found inside Arapahoe High School following a a shooting on campus Friday that left the gunman dead and three other students injured, authorities said.

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A shooter opened fire at a high school in Colorado on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. (Credit: KDVR)

A student armed with a rifle opened fire Friday inside a suburban Denver high school, injuring three people before turning the gun on himself, authorities said.

The shooter, identified Friday night as 18-year-old Karl H. Pierson, was targeting the school librarian after being benched from the debate team earlier this week, Sheriff Grayson Robinson told reporters.

“The suspect has been found inside the school and he has deceased as a result of what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Robinson said.

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Karl Pierson (Credit: CNN)

At least one person — a minor girl — was taken to Littleton Adventist Hospital with a gunshot wound, Lauren Brendel, a hospital spokeswoman, told CNN.

Brendel did not release the age or condition of the minor.

Two others were taken to Swedish Medical Center where they were reported in good condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Authorities descended on the school after news of the shooting broke — on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The shooting also occurred roughly 10 miles from Littleton, where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher in a rampage at Columbine High School in April 1999 before killing themselves.

The student walked into Arapahoe High School carrying a shotgun and made no attempt to hide it, Robinson said. He then asked other students the whereabouts of a faculty member, he said.

A school janitor told CNN affiliate KMGH that he saw a student dressed in tactical gear running through the school.

“It just looked weird,” the janitor said. “He went in and I heard two pops. That’s when I knew. I said, ‘They are shooting in the school.’”

The janitor said he called 911, and he then escorted the targeted faculty member out of the school.

“In my opinion, that was the most important tactical decision that could have been made,” Robinson said. The faculty member “left that school in an effort to try to encourage the shooter to also leave the school.”

The gunman’s body was found later in a classroom, Robinson told reporters. The student appears to have acted alone, he said.

In addition to the shotgun, authorities found what was initially reported as a Molotov cocktail; the bomb squad was working to identify it, Robinson said.

The first sheriff’s deputies and police officers arrived at Arapahoe and entered almost immediately after the shooting was reported, Robinson said.

While authorities hunted for the student gunman inside the school, students were locked in their classrooms.

Courtney Leytoldt told KMGH she saw a girl, covered in blood, running down the stairs yelling, “Help me, help me, there’s a shooter.”

Leytoldt said she was in yoga class and that her teacher told all the students to get into a closet to protect them.

Ninth-grader Whitney Riley was getting ready to grab her computer from her locker when the shooting began.

“We were having fun and laughing and then, all of a sudden, we heard a really loud bang,” the 15-year-old told CNN.

“My teacher asked what it was and then we heard two more and we all just got up and screamed and ran into a sprinkler system room.”

Inside the windowless room were five students and two teachers. “We were shaking, we were crying, we were freaking out,” Riley said. “I had a girl biting my arm.”

They soon heard people yelling, and walkie-talkies crackling, and then they heard police asking someone to drop the gun, put the gun down, and hold his arms up, she said.

She did not hear another gunshot, though the people doing the talking could have moved farther away, she said. Soon, they heard police ordering them out.

Colton Powers told CNN affiliate KDVR that he heard gunfire during his English class.

At that point, his teacher turned off the lights and locked the door.

“We ran to a corner so they couldn’t see us,” Powers said.

Within about 14 minutes of the initial report, “we had information on the radio that my deputies believed they had the shooter down inside the school,” Robinson said.

Dozens of students could be seen walking away from the school, with their hands in the air. Some stood in lines at what appeared the high school track field, where they appeared to be undergoing police pat-downs.

Students were then taken by bus to a nearby church where they were reunited with their families, Robinson said.

The high school, with a student population of 2,229 students, has 70 classrooms. The school, which was built in 1964, is part of the Littleton Public Schools system.

Gov. John Hickenlooper called the shooting an “all-too-familiar sequence, where you have gunshots and parents racing to the school and unspeakable horror in a place of learning.”

President Barack Obama was bri

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