Police: School shooter said he didn't plan to hurt students

Teacher ran toward gunshots, tackled student in school commons area

By Donna Gordon Blankinship
Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) - A 16-year-old boy who fired two gunshots Monday inside a Washington state high school, hitting no one before a teacher tackled him, told detectives he never intended to hurt any students, a police spokesman said.

Three other staff members at North Thurston High School in Lacey, about 60 miles southwest of Seattle, quickly helped subdue the teen.

The boy told detectives "there were some issues in personal relationships," Lacey police Cmdr. Jim Mack told The Olympian newspaper. Asked if the shooting could have been an attempt at "suicide by cop," Mack said, "It definitely could have been."

A teen acquaintance said she recently got troubling texts from the boy.

Alexa Carpenter, 15, told KING-TV of Seattle she recently became friends with the boy, who seemed to be fitting in at a new school before he texted her last Friday, saying, "It does not matter anyway after tonight" and "I decided I need to go, it's my time."

The boy transferred to the school about a month ago from Mount Rainier High School in the south Seattle suburb of Des Moines, school district spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve said. There was nothing in his file to cause concern, she said.

A Thurston County senior deputy prosecutor said it appears the boy acted alone but he couldn't comment on the teen's reported statement. Wayne Graham cautioned that the investigation was just beginning and any discussion of motive was premature.

"God was paying attention in Lacey this morning," he said, calling the drama "the worst case scenario with the best possible outcome."

Popular teacher Brady Olson said he did what any other U.S. educator would do: He ran toward the gunfire instead of away from it.

Olson said three other staff members reacted the same way when the student fired two shots before classes began Monday morning.

"No one, including myself, can prepare for a situation like this, so I'm very thankful that we're all OK. As always, students come first and today was no different," Olson, an Advanced Placement government and civics teacher, said in a statement.

Anthony Rybalkin, 16, said he and a group of friends were hanging out near the lunch tables when he heard a loud boom. He looked up and saw a classmate from his sixth-period class walking down the stairs from the gym into a common area that serves as a lunch room, with a cigarette in his mouth and a gun in his hand.

"We thought it was fake for a second. Then he shot off another round," said Rybalkin, who said he was about 20 feet away from the shooter. "Everyone just started running out the back door."

Rybalkin tripped and fell as he ran away and turned his head to see if the shooter was coming his way. That's when he saw Olson come up behind the shooter and tackle him.

"When Mr. Olson tackled him, he still had it (the gun) in his hand," Rybalkin said.

Mack said the shooter had a fully loaded revolver, minus the two fired shots, when he was arrested. Another gun was found at his home, and investigators said both weapons were legally owned by the parents.

Police also took cellphones and laptops from the boy's home, Mack said.

Classes were canceled Monday but will resume Tuesday, with counselors available, Schrieve said.

The district had just been practicing active shooter drills, and "it obviously paid off," she said, touting Olson as a good person.

"He's a very large guy, he's a very popular teacher, and I can see him doing that," Schrieve said.

Olson said he was happy everyone was safe and praised school staff and police. "I'm incredibly proud to be a member of the bigger community of educators who teach and take care of our kids every day," he said.

Another student who witnessed the shooting but did not see how the gunman was stopped was not surprised to hear Olson took him down.

"If anyone in the school were to do something like he did, I would think it would be him," said Teia Patan, 17. "He's one of those people who watch over kids."

Patan, a senior in one of Olson's civics classes, was swept into a classroom and then escorted out of the building after the shooting. He described his high school as nice and calm, with no bullying.

The shooting comes just months after another one in Washington state left five students dead, including the gunman. In October, Jaylen Fryberg, 15, shot the students and then himself after inviting them to lunch in the cafeteria at Marysville-Pilchuck High School north of Seattle.

Published: Wed, Apr 29, 2015