UPDATE: Teacher lauded for efforts to subdue Mattoon High student gunman

UPDATE: Teacher lauded for efforts to subdue Mattoon High student gunman

UPDATE, 9 p.m.:

MATTOON — A female teacher acting quickly may have prevented further tragedy Wednesday at Mattoon High School after a male student shot another student in the cafeteria during lunch.

“Lives were saved by the quick response of a teacher here,” Mattoon police Chief Jeff Branson said at press conference Wednesday evening. “She had been trained obviously, but in these scenarios, you just don’t know what happens until it happens.”

The teacher apparently subdued the student gunman, who was then disarmed by the school resource officer.

“If that teacher had not responded as quickly as she had,” Branson said, “I think the situation would have been a lot different.”

Officials did not identify the shooter, the victim or the teacher.

The wounded student apparently was not the intended target.

“Numerous rounds were fired,” Branson said, “one striking a bystander student who was trying to evacuate the cafeteria.”

The officers located the injured student in the high school parking lot, and the school nurse came to his aid, Branson said.

The student was taken by emergency personnel to Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center for treatment.

Branson said the victim received one gunshot wound.

Mattoon school Superintendent Larry Lilly said he visited the victim at the hospital late Wednesday afternoon.

The student was “smiling, in stable condition, in good spirits and joked about catching some slack on his grades,” Lilly said. “The victim’s father also shared that I pass along his prayers for the shooter’s family.”

Branson said police got multiple calls about shots fired in the cafeteria beginning at 11:32 a.m.

“Mattoon High School officials were made aware of an active high school student shooter at approximately 11:30 a.m. on the Mattoon High School campus,” Lilly said. “The school resource officer and school officials headed to the cafeteria, where they heard shots fired.”

After the suspect was subdued, Lilly said, emergency procedures were activated, and students and staff exited the high school.

He said the injured student’s parents were notified, and all other students were transferred to Riddle Elementary School to be released to their parents.

Police searched the school room by room, and area schools were placed on a soft lockdown.

“We are saddened that this has happened, and we will provide counseling to our students,” Lilly said. “We will continue to work with the emergency personnel to determine what happened. We appreciate the quick response of our staff and our first responders. Most importantly, we offer our thoughts and prayers to the injured student and all who were affected by this tragedy.”

Counselors, local clergy and police officers will be available to students and staff to provide comfort and counseling in the days ahead, Lilly said. The district posted on its Facebook page that the high school will be let out early at 12:09 p.m. Thursday. Parents are allowed to keep their students home if they wish.

“We feel we got the only shooter and only participant in custody,” Branson said. “We are pretty confident now it was one individual.”

“The evidence at this point in time indicates this juvenile was acting alone,” Coles County State’s Attorney Brian Bower said. He said no more information can be provided at this time.

The Coles County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State Police, Lake Land police, Eastern Illinois University police, the East Central Illinois Task Force and Mattoon Fire Department all provided assistance, Branson said. He said Mattoon police will have a presence in the schools in the coming days.

Gov. Bruce Rauner tweeted his support for the victim Wednesday evening:

Mahomet-Seymour High School, which belongs to the same athletics conference as Mattoon, also sent out a tweet of support:

At Riddle Elementary, tables were set up for each high school class, and water bottles handed out in the 90-degree heat.

John Johnson, a parent of three high school-aged students, said he moved to Mattoon to avoid this kind of violence.

“I moved away from the inner city to come down here because it’s more laid back and easier for my kids to grow up in,” he said. “It really doesn’t make a difference where you live at anymore. It can happen anywhere.”

His kids were all safe.

“They were all able to get out safely,” Johnson said. “One of my sons, he was in the cafeteria when it all happened. He said he was probably about two tables away.”

Johnson was at home across the street when the shooting occurred. His daughter called, and he ran to go to the high school.

When Niki Baldwin was returning to school after lunch, the rest of the school was evacuating.

“I left for lunch and then came back,” said Baldwin, a Mattoon junior. “Right when I came back, that’s when everybody started evacuating and some lady was yelling not to go inside.”

Baldwin said it was “mind-blowing” for a school shooting to happen in a town of about 18,000.

The high school was surrounded by police cars the rest of the afternoon, and the school district posted on Facebook that while students would be able to begin picking up their cars from the school at 5 p.m., they wouldn’t be allowed back in the building because of the ongoing investigation.

At Riddle, Lutheran pastors Adam Jacobsen and Paul Hopkins were handing out water and providing comfort.

“People have been pretty scared,” Jacobsen said. “There’s also, especially among the parents here and the students that I’ve seen, a thankfulness that people are safe. And lots of thoughts and prayers and concerns for those who are not.”

Jacobsen said the situation at Riddle had been operating smoothly.

“It’s been pretty orderly. There’s been a few high tensions, as can be expected, but nothing major,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen and Hopkins came from a church meeting at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Mattoon.

“We had prayers right away before we even came here,” Hopkins said.

St. John’s Lutheran School was placed on lockdown as soon as the alert went out, Jacobsen said.

“I came back to my school to help provide comfort there because several of the younger kids have brothers and sisters” at the high school, he said. “And then as soon as I was able to organize some of us, we got water and came on down.”

In the afternoon, Jessica O’Dell was picking up her son at Riddle.

“Just making sure everyone is OK. It’s scary,” she said. “It’s kind of not so surprising with as much bullying as is going on. But to be quite honest, it’s a little too close to home.”

* * * * *

Original story, posted 7:45 p.m.:

MATTOON — When students return to Mattoon High School on Thursday, they'll be able to pick up what they left behind after a shooting left one student injured in the cafeteria.

When a male student shot another student about 11:30 a.m., the high school was evacuated and students were taken by bus to Riddle Elementary School.

Counselors, clergy and police officers will also be on hand Thursday to comfort students, the school district said on Facebook, and students at the high school will be dismissed at 12:09 p.m. Parents are allowed to keep their kids home Thursday.

After the shooting, the shooter was subdued and disarmed by school staff and placed in custody.

The injured student was taken to a local hospital, where he was in stable condition.

Police searched the school room by room, and area schools were placed on a soft lockdown.

At Riddle, tables were set up for parents of each high school class, and water bottles were being handed out in the 90-degree heat.

John Johnson, a parent of three high-school-aged students, said he moved to Mattoon to avoid this kind of violence.

"I moved away from the inner city to come down here because it's more laid back and easier for my kids to grow up in," he said. "It really doesn't make a difference where you live at anymore. It can happen anywhere."

His three high school-aged kids were all safe.

"They were all able to get out safely," Johnson said. "One of my sons, he was in the cafeteria when it all happened. He said he was probably about two tables away."

Johnson was at home across the street when the shooting occurred. His daughter called, and he ran to the high school.

When Niki Baldwin was returning to school after lunch Wednesday, the rest of the school was evacuating.

"I left for lunch and then came back," said Baldwin, a junior at Mattoon High School. "Right when I came back, that's when everybody started evacuating and some lady was yelling not to go inside."

Baldwin said it was "mind-blowing" for a school shooting to happen in a town of about 18,000.

The high school was surrounded by police cars the rest of the afternoon, and the school district posted on Facebook that while students would be able to begin picking up their cars from the school at 5 p.m., they wouldn't be allowed back in the building due to the ongoing investigation.

At Riddle, Lutheran pastors Adam Jacobsen and Paul Hopkins were handing out water and providing comfort.

"People have been pretty scared," Jacobsen said. "There's also, especially among the parents here and the students that I've seen, a thankfulness that people are safe. And lots of thoughts and prayers and concerns for those who are not."

Jacobsen said the situation at Riddle had been operating pretty smoothly.

"It's been pretty orderly. There's been a few high tensions, as can be expected, but nothing major," Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen and Hopkins came from a church meeting at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Mattoon.

"We had prayers right away before we even came here," Hopkins said.

St. John's Lutheran School was placed on lockdown as soon as the alert went out, Jacobsen said.

"I came back to my school to help provide comfort there because several of the younger kids have brothers and sisters (at the high school)," he said. "And then as soon as I was able to organize some of us, we got water and came on down."

In the afternoon, Jessica O'Dell was picking up her son at Riddle.

"Just making sure everyone is OK. It's scary," she said. "It's kind of not so surprising with as much bullying as is going on. But to be quite honest, it's a little too close to home."

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Chambanacitizen wrote on September 20, 2017 at 9:09 pm

"Good guys" don't have to have guns after all.

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on September 21, 2017 at 8:09 am

Uh........................................ did you read the article?  There was a good guy with a gun there seconds after the incident.  Moments after the female teacher stopped him, the  SRO was right there.  Please do not start this debate.

 

 

Chambanacitizen wrote on September 21, 2017 at 11:09 am

After it happened..you said it.

jparks wrote on September 21, 2017 at 8:09 pm

Chambanacitizen, I am not sure I understand your response.  I believe that qualified, trained school teachers and administrators should be allowed to carry weapons.  Columbine and Sandy Hook would not have had the casualties they did if responsible, trained people were armed.

The armed criminal in Mattoon should have been eliminated.  

jparks wrote on September 22, 2017 at 5:09 am

The teacher unnecessarily risked her life to save all of the children that she did.  She could have taken a step backwards, drawn her weapon, assessed the threat and analized the situation, and pulled the trigger.  Threat eliminated.

Objective Reporter wrote on September 25, 2017 at 10:09 am

I agree; the threat would have been eliminated.  That's assuming in your little scenario, however, that the teacher would have actually hit the intended target.  The overwhelming odds say she would have missed, and who knows where the bullet(s) might have ended up.

Keith A. wrote on September 22, 2017 at 12:09 am

It seems as if the News Gazette, as well as several other papers, has under-reported one of the most sailent points about the school-shooting incident.   In the original article, there was no mention of the hero, Miss Angela McQueen's role in potentially saving many lives.  In the later article, lauding the teacher who's efforts might have subdued the gunman, there was no mention of her name.   There were many other names mentioned in the article, but not hers.  

This morning, CBS Television news showed her picture and lead into the story hailing her as a hero.  For some unknown reason, the various papers haven't talked much about her at all.

What's up with that?  It seems to me that this woman deserves a lot of praise.  She risked her own life to save many others.  Without her heroic efforts, there would have likely been several families grieving over their murdered children.   If I was the mayor, I might throw her a parade.  If I was a newspaper, I would at least mention her name!    

 

Objective Reporter wrote on September 22, 2017 at 8:09 am

The worst thing that could ever happen is to have a bunch of educators walking around the school with loaded weapons.  Take a step back and understand the implications.  Remember, we are talking about a cafeteria with a bunch of teenagers present.  Do you really want a gun battle breaking out?   And there were people there with loaded weapons - the school resource officer(s).  Teachers carrying loaded guns is unwise at the very very best.

jparks wrote on September 22, 2017 at 11:09 am

As a former police officer I can assure you I "understand the implications".  I don't think the Sandy Hook tradegy would have been worse if teachers had been armed.  I don't think the Columbine tradegy would have been worse if teachers had been armed.  In fact, the arguement can be made that they might not have happened at all if the shooters knew they would likely face deadly resistance.

Objective Reporter wrote on September 22, 2017 at 1:09 pm

As a former police officer, I'm sure you also know that police officers miss 70-80% of their shots in a dynamic event.  I think we would both agree that Columbine and Sandy Hook and Mattoon would all qualify as dynamic events.  Imagine you have 10-20 educators missing at least 70-80% of their shots (probably more since the police are usually more highly skilled shooters).  Those bullets end up somewhere.  I think the tragedies would have been much worse.

jparks wrote on September 22, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Adam Lanza fires once, killing one.  Adam Lanza fires again, killing number two.  Adam Lanza fires again, killing number three.  By this time teacher or Resource Officer realizes what is happening, fires twice, killing an innocent student (to fit your narrative) and killing Lanza.  I didn't look up the Sandy Hook tradgedy.  What is that, a net saving of 16 innocent students?  That scenerio isn't unreasonable.  It is also reasonable to think the Resource Officer could have spotted Lanza entering the school with a gun, told him to drop it, and when he doesn't the Resource Officer kills Lanza before any innocent students die. 

Objective Reporter wrote on September 22, 2017 at 2:09 pm

  Right.  The resource officer.  Highly trained shooter.  

jparks wrote on September 22, 2017 at 9:09 pm

I never said anyone was a "highly trained shooter".  Anyone.  Ball in your court.

jparks wrote on September 22, 2017 at 9:09 pm

A law abiding homeowner might not be a "highly trained shooter".  However, in my opinion they should be allowed to defend themselves. Other than a SWAT team I really don't know what that is.  So are you saying no one should have guns at all?  If so, you should tell the shooter in Mattoon, and Sandy Hook, and Columbine, and......  And all of the other shootings like this that will take place in the future.  Yep, it is inevitable.  Pull the covers over your head and live the oblivious life you live.  The rest of us are in reality. 

Objective Reporter wrote on September 23, 2017 at 3:09 pm

You are really reaching now.  All I said is that teachers shouldn't be walking around schools with loaded weapons.  That's it.  That's my position.  If you want to twist things to make it seem like I'm saying more/less than what I actually said, get after it and have fun.  Enjoy.

PSL wrote on September 23, 2017 at 10:09 am

As we've seen over the past several years, plenty of cops display really bad judgment and poor trigger discipline with their firearms. I definitely don't trust a cop's opinion about firearm safety more than the average informed citizen...heck, I probably trust it less.

JohnRalphio wrote on September 24, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Tragic as Sandy Hook was, it's not really relevant to the question "should teachers be armed?" I highly doubt anyone could have stopped the Sandy Hook shooter, armored and determined as he was. The issue is whether having guns widely present on school grounds, on a day-to-day basis, would be a positive thing. I find it hard to believe having every teacher armed would decrease the number of incidents. It would just add stress, confusion, and the opportunity for disaster.

acylum wrote on September 23, 2017 at 11:09 am

True, the threat would have been eliminated.  But in doing what she did, no one was eliminated.  We are not left asking questions of why the shooter did what they did, postmortum.  The shooter survives to receive the mental treatment needed, as well as pay for their deadly choices. 

This teacher saved lives, including that of the shooter.  Of course, she risked her own life in doing so, but isn't that why she's being labeled a hero?

Objective Reporter wrote on September 23, 2017 at 3:09 pm

I did.  I said the cop is a highly trained shooter.