14-Year Old in Custody After Shots Fired at Normal School
By Charlie Schlenker
A hostage situation at Normal Community High School ended in a frantic scramble for a gun on Friday morning. Police have taken a 14-year-old boy into custody in connection with the incident.
No one was hurt when shots were fired at the high school. Police and Unit Five officials placed the school on lockdown a little after 8am.
Sean Kennedy, 14, was in health class when a fellow student pulled the gun, a hatchet, pills, and a container of kerosene out of his backpack and told the class no one ever listened to his problems and they were going to listen now. Kennedy said at one point, his classmate fired at the ceiling, as some members of the class bolted for the door. At another time, he set the gun down and walked away from the desk talking about his problems.
"And my teacher, he stood up and ran, grabbed the gun and then he jumped on top of the teacher's back and my teacher he…trying to empty out all the rounds from the gun, he fired a shot towards the wall and then he threw the boy to the ground and was holding him down," Kennedy said. "Then another kid in the class ran and jumped on top of him, along with the teacher and I ran over and grabbed the gun."
Kennedy helped disarm the shooter by turning on the safety of the gun.
In less than two hours, the situation was under control. Students were gradually released to their parents through the afternoon at nearby Eastview Christian Church. Police arrested the suspect and are questioning others.
"We have other individuals that we are talking to that either associated or may have spoke with this individual prior to this incident happening," Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said.
Officials with Unit 5 are mulling what additional security measures if any need to be enacted in the wake of the shooting. Superintendent Gary Niehaus said he is not ruling out installing metal detectors. He said whatever measures are put in place should also apply to Normal West as well as the district's four junior high schools. He said, for right now, students will be the main source of security.
"One of the greatest things I think we have is roughly 2,000 students in that building that are probably going to be watching everybody's move and everybody's circumstances," Niehaus said. "I think our students will be probably the first to let someone know when something like this goes on."
Niehaus is urging parents and teachers to search student book bags. He said additional permanent security measures will have to be approved by the Unit 5 school board.
Police Chief Bliechner said no clear motive for the shooting has yet developed. He said he has no knowledge that the alleged shooter has a troubled past. He said investigators are looking into how the boy obtained the gun.
Bleichner said the investigation will continue.