The 15-year-old student whose rampage at a rural Kentucky high school left two teens dead was charged with two counts of murder and 12 counts of first-degree assault, authorities said Wednesday.
Assistant County Attorney Jason Darnall said the shooter, whose name has not been released because he is a juvenile, was charged in juvenile court. Darnall said he will request that the case be transferred to adult court.
Authorities previously said the teen would be charged with murder and attempted murder, but Darnall said the assault charge would be easier to prove than attempted murder and carries the same penalty.
Students at Marshall High School in Benton described a terrifying scene of gunshots, shock, panic and a wild scramble for safety on Tuesday. Bailey Nicole Holt, 15, died at the scene. Preston Ryan Cope, 15, died a short time later at a hospital in Nashville. Eighteen other teens were injured in the chaos, 14 of them from gunshot wounds.
"No one screamed," said Alexandria Caporali, 16. "It was almost completely silent as people just ran."
Caporali said she was eating breakfast in the school's atrium when she heard a gunshot and turned to see the shooter nearby. She said she knew him as a happy, quiet boy who played music. Caporali took refuge in a classroom as shots continued to ring out.
“It was one right after another – bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,” she said.
Heather Ligon, mother of two teens at the school, said her sons described the shooter as someone who was cracking jokes whenever they saw him. Ligon said when she arrived at scene, her youngest son Bryan, 14, crawled to her in a panic.
Bryan told her he had been close enough to smell the charred gunpowder from the shooter's handgun.
Lexie Waymon and Baleigh Culp, both 16, said they had been talking about basketball and makeup when they heard a bang. Culp said she thought nothing of it "until I saw a body drop on the ground and the bangs continued." Bullets, she said, were "flying everywhere."
Culp ran to the street, continued to hear shooting behind her and kept running until a man pulled her into a business where other students were also hiding.
Waymon said she was so overcome by fear that initially she couldn't even run.
"I got up and tried to run, but I fell," she said. She saw only blackness. "I heard someone hit the ground. It was so close to me."
Waymon got up and ran more than a mile to a McDonald's.
Since the shooting, a series of vigils and memorials have focused on healing. “In the days ahead, we are going to need each other’s help,” said Pastor Chris Young at a vigil at Impact Church, about 10 miles from the site of the carnage.
The shooting spree is the latest in a long line of such tragedies. Last month a former student at Aztec High in Aztec, N.M., walked into a classroom and fatally shot two students and himself. This month alone, 11 shootings at or near schools across the nation have been reported.
It's illegal in Kentucky for anyone under the age of 18 to possess a gun with a few exceptions, such as while attending a firearms safety course or while hunting. And the school conducts active shooter training.
Still, Ligon said she and other parents are now worried about the safety of their children. Some parents are considering home-schooling, and others, like Ligon, are considering holding their kids out until metal detectors are installed.
The school didn’t alert parents until after 9 a.m., Ligon said. She learned of the shooting from her eldest son, who called because he couldn’t find his brother amid the panic. She said she understands why schools can’t send an immediate alert, but she expected something sooner.
“What happens to the parents that work in Paducah or Murray or Mayfield and they hear about it on the news?” she asked.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Thomas Novelly, Erica Brechtelsbauer, Andy Wolfson and Darcy Costello, (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal; Natalie Neysa Alund, Jake Lowary and Natalie Allison, The Tennessean; Mark Hicks of The (Clarksville, Tenn.) Leaf-Chronicle.