International desk: A teenage boy opened fire with a handgun at a Kentucky high school early Tuesday, killing two fellow students and wounding more than a dozen people in the latest mass shooting to hit the United States.
The unnamed 15-year-old student, now in custody, is alleged to have carried out the attack at Marshall County High School in Benton, a small town in western Kentucky.
Two students of the same age died of gunshot wounds, while 12 other people were shot and five suffered other injuries during the shooting, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said.
The suspected shooter was apprehended in a “non-violent” manner, and will be charged with both two counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder, according to Bevin.
One of the students died at the scene and the other after being taken to a hospital, where five more victims were in “critical condition,” said Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders.
The shooter struck just as the school day was starting.
“The incident began at 7:57 am (1357 GMT) when a 15-year-old student armed with a handgun entered the high school and started shooting,” Sanders said.
A 911 emergency call was placed soon after, and first responders were at the scene by 8:06 am, he said.
The suspect “was apprehended by the sheriff’s office officer that was the first to arrive,” Sanders said.
State police had recently been in the area “teaching students and faculty how to respond to an active shooter situation, and everybody in that high school reacted appropriately,” he said.
– US plagued by mass shootings –
An “SRO,” or “School Resource Officer” — a law enforcement officer responsible for safety at the school — was present.
“The SRO that was assigned to the school went through a tough time this morning,” Sanders said, but did not provide further information on the officer’s actions during the shooting.
Students ran from the scene after hearing shots, the Marshall County Tribune-Courier newspaper reported on its Facebook page, adding that the school was placed on lockdown as the incident unfolded.
Students later were bused to a neighboring school where parents could retrieve them, it said.
“This is a tremendous tragedy and speaks to the heartbreak present in our communities,” Bevin said a statement. “It is unbelievable that this would happen in a small, close-knit community like Marshall County.”
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that works to reduce gun violence, the most recent school shooting in Kentucky occurred in September 2014, when one student shot and wounded another in the hallway of Fern Creek High School in Louisville.
The US as a whole is plagued by mass shootings, including two in recent months that left dozens of people dead.
In October, a shooter opened fire on a country music concert from a Las Vegas hotel, killing 58 people, while another attacked a Texas church the following month, leaving 26 people dead, including an unborn child.
Guns are the source of one of the most bitter and enduring divides in American politics.
Most Democrats advocate gun control as a means of reducing deadly shootings, while many Republicans — backed by the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby — oppose restrictions on firearms ownership, arguing that armed citizens are better able to protect themselves from gun violence. AFP