Students at a central Florida high school who’d planned to participate in the National School Walkout against gun violence Friday morning instead found themselves outside for a different reason: a shooting on campus.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods held a press conference shortly before noon, and said a shooting at the start of the day at Forest High School, in suburban Ocala, was “intentional.” The school has about 2,000 students, and just one was shot, in the leg. The school was evacuated and all schools in the area were placed on lockdown as a precaution.
“At 8:39 a.m. this morning, the [school resource officer] for the high school heard what he believed to be a large, loud bang sound, a gunshot,” said Woods. “At 8:42 he was immediately on scene and engaged the activity that was going on.”
The victim was a 17-year-old male student, who was shot in the ankle and sustained non-life threatening injuries. Woods said the suspect, a 19-year-old male non-student, did not resist arrest and was taken into custody.
Woods wouldn’t say what kind of gun the shooter had, whether he came by that gun legally, or if the victim and the gunman knew each other.
Friday’s National School Walkout was one in a series of student-led protests against gun violence, organized after the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, 270 miles south of Ocala, left 17 people dead. The walkout was planned to mark the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at a high school in Columbine, Colorado, and organized by a high school student who grew up near the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, where a 2013 shooting left 26 people dead, including 20 young children.
“It’s a shame what society has come to, that we even have to be here on a school campus,” said Woods. “Society has changed since I was kid, since I was at school. This is not a law enforcement problem, this is a society problem. And we as a whole need to do something.”
Woods added that he’d spent most of Thursday responding to an incident where two of his deputies were killed in an apparent ambush attack. “My emotions are running rampant,” said Woods. “I’m angry, I’m sad, and I want to do something.”
Cover image: Judge Sarah Ritterhoff Williams embraces family friend student Attie French after finding her in the crowd at First Baptist Church while looking for her own daughter following a shooting at Forest High School, Friday 20, 2018 in Ocala, Fla. (Alan Youngblood/Star-Banner via AP)