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Shock, sadness in wake of Bend HS suicide

By Kandra Kent
Matt McDonald
Published On: Feb 08 2014 12:51:39 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 09 2014 05:17:48 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent and Matt McDonald report on a classroom suicide at Bend Senior High School, and the agonizing wait for many parents to learn their kids were okay.

BEND, Ore. -

Bend High School was on lockdown for hours Friday afternoon after a student took his own life amid his classmates.

"A male student died from self-inflicted gunshot wound on campus," Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Ron Wilkinson said Friday afternoon at joint press conference Friday with Bend police.

Officers scrambled to secure the scene shortly after reports of the gunshot came in around noon.

The male student, who was not identified by authorities, shot himself in a modular unit outside the high school's main building.

"We were trying to get a hold of my son, and he wasn't responding," said parent Brian Wallace. "He finally responded, and the incident, he witnessed it -- it happened right in his class."

It was a nightmare for parents as they waited for hours in the snow -- a scene of confusion, tears and anxious questions not being answered by police.

Many only learned that their children were safe by text messages and phone calls from the students themselves.

"I didn't really hear the gunshots go off, but some kids were just talking about it and it kind of went over text really fast," freshman Austin Connelly told NewsChannel 21.

Today's teen technology actually alleviated the worst fears of some parents, like Brian Wallace, waiting outside in the falling snow.

"I feel like if our kids didn't have cellphones, none of us would know if anybody was okay," Wallace said.

One student was texting his mother, Renee Shadley, over and over.

"He was saying, 'Please just come and pick me up. I just want to go home. I don't want to be here,'"Shadley recalled.

Shadley said she first thought the lockdown might be related to the weather -- then her son told her police cars were everywhere outside the school.

"It's a tragic situation," Police Chief Jim Porter said.  "It was contained immediately. The actions of the staff, the training of the police department paid off."

Police offered few details, but said the shooter acted alone, and likely brought the gun to school himself.

They declined to offer any information on the gun itself or the nature of the suicide.

Police said nobody else was injured; however, there  were several witnesses.

"The kids are shaken up, the staff are shaken up," Wilkinson said.  "It's not something you expect to happen on a day coming to work."

Students were finally released to go home more than two hours later.

Kids, school officials and parents were stunned it could happen in Bend.

"It's supposed to be a safe place for your kids to go," Shadley said.

"You get the feeling that this could never happen in Bend," Wallace said. "But also you know that it could happen anywhere, any time. So it's always in the back of your head, I guess."

Many now are looking to the school district, wondering if their children are safe in the classroom.

"We'll be meeting Monday morning and sitting down and debriefing the situation," Wilkinson said. "And working with our police department, and continuing to see of there's anything we can do to improve our policies and procedures."

While one student's family deals with the ultimate loss, students are already dealing with a lesson no one wanted to learn.

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