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Police: Suspect entered New Mexico school with sawed-off shotgun and plan

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 11:00 PM EST, Wed January 15, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Source: The suspect had a journal at home describing "what he wanted to do"
  • NEW: His father bought the gun used in shooting at Walmart; other guns were locked up
  • This 12-year-old is accused of shooting 2 students in his school's gymnasium
  • His parents say a judge ordered that their son receive mental health treatment

(CNN) -- He had a 20-gauge pump shotgun, which police say he personally sawed off.

He had three shells.

And he had a plan.

The 12-year-old had all these when he entered a Roswell, New Mexico, middle school gymnasium and opened fire, State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said Wednesday.

His first shot, which Kassetas characterized as "birdshot," hit the ceiling. The second went into the gym floor. The third sped toward the stands where, some 12 to 15 feet away, it hit two of a throng of students who had been waiting for classes to start.

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"The victims were random," the state police chief said.

Having carried out three search warrants and conducted at least 60 "primary interviews," Kassetas laid out these and other details related to Tuesday morning's shooting at Berrendo Middle School. But he didn't disclose everything, including the preteen shooter's possible motive.

"We did find evidence that the suspect had planned this event," Kassetas said. "I can't discuss the particulars as to why."

It's a question that many in Roswell, an eastern New Mexico city of just under 50,000 people, continue to ask themselves. That, and what do they do now.

The suspect's parents, Jim and Jennifer Campbell, and grandparents, Robert and Nancy Bowles, issued a statement Wednesday saying they are "praying that God will be with everyone who has been affected." The family singled out the two hospitalized victims, in particular.

They didn't try to explain the shooter's actions, which left "his whole family ... heart broken," though they didn't ignore his impact.

"For all of the anguish that many suffered yesterday," his parents and grandparents said, "our family offers our heartfelt condolences and remorse in words that we cannot fully express."

The preteen faces three counts of aggravated battery, according to New Mexico state juvenile court documents obtained by CNN affiliate KOAT.

1 student's condition critical, another is stable

Berrendo Middle was closed Wednesday, but it will reopen Thursday. When it does, its teachers will all become counselors, charged with helping their students deal with this tragedy even if they are scarred themselves.

School district Superintendent Tom Burris said he told those teachers: "It's a face of courage, it's a face of love, and it's a face of positive that you have to put on for every one of our kids. ... You are the leader that is going to lead these kids back (from) where they've been in the last two days."

Two students will not be among them.

They include 13-year-old Kendal Sanders, who Gov. Susana Martinez said suffered injuries to her right shoulder in the shooting.

Her family got good news Tuesday night when doctors at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas -- about 175 miles east of the school -- upgraded her to stable condition. Kendal is likely to remain hospitalized for a week or more, the governor said.

The other victim, who is 12 and whom officials aren't naming because of a request from his family, suffered injuries to the side of his face and neck, Martinez said. This boy has undergone at least two surgeries since the incident.

"He is in worse condition than Kendal," the governor said Wednesday afternoon, "and is still listed in critical condition."

As they recover in the west Texas hospital, Martinez urged people to keep praying for them and others affected by the violence.

"We want to be able to welcome them home," the governor said. "We don't want ... the extreme tragedy of losing either one of them."

Police: Suspect took parents' gun

Another student, of course, who will be missing is the suspect.

He is being held at an unspecified location in Albuquerque and has met with his parents, Kassetas said.

In their statement, the parents indicated a judge "ordered ... our son receive an evaluation and mental health treatment and sincerely want him to receive all of the help that he needs."

"As a family we will cooperate in all ways with law enforcement to piece together how this awful tragedy occurred," they said, voicing confidence in law enforcement, the local district attorney and the judicial system.

Kassetas did say the shotgun came from the suspect's home. His father bought the gun -- the only one of several weapons in the house not locked up in a safe -- some time ago at Walmart, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation.

Authorities believe the 12-year-old "modified the weapon by cutting off the stock," Kassetas said.

Three search warrants have been executed in connection with the investigation: on the suspect's locker, his duffel bag and his Roswell home.

While the state police chief didn't elaborate, the law enforcement source said the suspect kept a handwritten journal at home describing "what he was planning, what he wanted to do."

But just before he fired, authorities believe the suspect gave "preliminary warnings ... to some select students who he ran into before he entered the gymnasium," Kassetas said.

'Hero' teacher

Teacher John Masterson didn't know the shooter had used up all his ammunition when he walked to the student and persuaded him to put the gun down, Martinez said.

"Mr. Masterson ... was a hero ... who stood there and allowed a gun to be pointed right at him," the governor said at a vigil Tuesday evening, "and to talk down that young boy to drop the gun so that there would be no more young kids hurt."

The Berrendo staff directory lists John Masterson as an eighth-grade social studies teacher.

Masterson has taught at the school for a decade, and also coaches track and soccer, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

When contacted by the newspaper, he said police told him not to discuss details of the shooting.

"It was a harrowing experience," he told the paper. "All I can say was the staff there did a great job."

Teachers train to face school shooter

'These are our kids'

The attack understandably has rattled residents of Roswell, a city about 200 miles southeast of Albuquerque. It becomes the latest community in the United States -- joining places like Littleton, Colorado, and Paducah, Kentucky, and Newtown, Connecticut -- to go from a relatively peaceful enclave to a site of a horrific school shooting.

Burris, the Roswell superintendent, said he and other school officials have received tremendous support, including offers from one unspecified Colorado school that "has been involved in things like this."

He said members of the New Mexico community are rallying around each other, with a focus on not just the two injured students but also the shooter.

"These are our kids," Burris said. "They don't stop being our kids because they are injured or they are incarcerated."

For now, officials acknowledge that students are far from over the hump.

Martinez recalled talking to one middle schooler who was in the gym that morning, who told her, "I'm trying to shove it down, I'm trying to push it down."

Monique Salcido, 13, said she is "in shock." She was in the gym, and she saw two of her friends get hit.

She told CNN's Piers Morgan on Tuesday night that she doesn't want to go back.

Said Monique: "I don't want to go to Berrendo again because I'm afraid it's going to happen again."

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Lateef Mungin, Chuck Johnston and Vanessa Juarez contributed to this report.

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