A 16-year-old male student was taken into custody after he shot a 15-year-old girl in the Italy High School cafeteria Monday morning.
“It sounded like a balloon,” recalled Garrett Cash, a junior at Italy High School who was two tables away from the shooter when the four shots were fired. He said his initial thought was to “get down and not get shot.”
Cash has known the student since the third grade.
The Ellis County Sheriff’s Department reported having the shooter in custody just after 8 a.m. Officials also stated the victim was taken via air ambulance to Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Her condition has yet to be disclosed.
Ellis County Sheriff Chuck Edge stated an Italy High School staff member initially confronted the shooter in the cafeteria. It was at that time that the suspect fled. He was then apprehended outside of the cafeteria while still on school grounds.
Officials have not yet released the name of the shooter.
Students were evacuated from the campus and taken to nearby Stafford Elementary School, located at 301 Harris Street in Italy.
Brisa Gray, a mother with a student at Italy High School, said she was at work when her husband called with the news. Her first reaction was to “just stay calm and pray and don’t lose it because obviously, you can’t think straight. Don’t jump to the negative. Just stay positive.”
“My husband did say he was shaken up because it had just happened. He wasn’t hysterical, but he was shaken up,” Gray recalled of the phone call. “It can happen anywhere. We tell our kids every day to make sure you’re safe. Be careful and have your cell phones charged because that’s your lifeline.”
Another mother, Michelle Wilson, said even if there is school tomorrow that her children will not attend.
“It could easily just happen again. It’s a small town and all these kids know each other,” Wilson said. “Something like this really rocks a community.”
Fighting back the tears, Wilson added, “We can’t even keep our kids safe anymore. This is so scary.”
Shortly after the incident, Rep. John Wray stated, “Please pray for the safety of all those at the school and for anyone who may have been injured.”
Italy Police and DPS troopers were dispatched to the high school at 7:53 a.m. Italy PD, DPS troops, ECSO and Hill County Sheriff’s deputies are actively working the scene.
During a Monday morning press conference, Ellis County Sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Fitzgerald stated the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation.
Italy ISD Superintendent Lee Joffre said, “This is a trying time for our community and our school.” He added that as soon as the administration learned of the active shooter, they “took action to get our students into a safe position.”
Joffre said the school district works “very well with the Italy Police Department. We have trainings with our staff to help them learn how to respond to these type of things.”
Joffre explained the training, which includes assistance from the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department, first instructs teachers and students to “make sure they get into a safe situation. And then, from there, we make sure we set up for unification.”
He added that the last active-shooter training was “earlier this year. Joffre said there are typically 45-55 students in the cafeteria during the morning.
Joffre also noted the district is currently working with Texas Education Administration Region 10 officials to provide students with grief counselors. He also stated any parent who wishes to pick up their children could do so at Stafford Elementary.
Neither Joffre or Fitzgerald commented on the condition of the victim or on a potential motive.
“In a small town, the school district is the center of what goes on with our kids. This morning’s tragedy hits the heart of this community,” Joffre said. “I want to express to you that our staff acted as trained and addressed the situation in the best way they could. Our staff did a great job of helping the students get unified with their parents.
“Tomorrow we will be having school as scheduled and during that time we will have grief counselors from across the Region 10 area, as well as Ellis County, to respond to our students’ needs. All of our students’ needs have been accounted for today, and I am happy to say that all students are accounted for.”
Edge stated charges against the shooter are pending until the investigation is complete.
This is a developing report. It has been updated throughout.