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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
remain unclear, the gas station attendant did not call the police to report the boys. Mitchell and Andrew went to a second and even a third station before they were finally able to get gas. With their supplies in order, they drove toward the school, parked their van on the cul-de-sac of a street approximately a half-mile from the school, and made their way to a wooded area near the Westside Middle School property.
Many adults at the school believe that the boys intended to do the shooting during lunch recess, but the ground was muddy due to rain the night before and the students did not go outside for lunch. To lure the students and teachers out of the building, Andrew Golden went inside the school and pulled the fire alarm. He then exited the building and joined Mitchell already in position, we assume, in the woods atop a hill overlooking the schoolyard. Only after the majority of the students had exited the building did the boys begin firing. Neither the students nor the teachers realized at first that they were being fired at. Many thought the loud pops they heard were firecrackers, while others thought it was all part of a school play. When they saw their fellow students and teachers fall around them, they finally understood it was an armed attack and began screaming at one another to get down. Since the doors to the school had automatically locked behind them as they left the building, most ran around the school toward the gym.
Mitchell and Andrew fired fewer than 30 rounds and struck 15 people. One student, Stephanie Johnson, was pronounced dead on the scene and four others, including a teacher, were pronounced dead at St. Bernard’s hospital in nearby Jonesboro. Ten others were treated and eventually released. According to ballistics reports and the police investigation, Mitchell fired five shots from a 30.06 caliber semiautomatic rifle equipped with a scope, killing at least one, but probably two, and wounding at least three. Andrew fired by far the most shots and was responsible for three deaths and wounding at least two others.
It is not clear why the boys stopped shooting when they did. Some law enforcement officials suspect that when a construction worker on the roof of the new fifth grade wing of the middle school saw the boys shooting and screamed at them to stop, they ended the assault. Mitchell fired a few shots at the construction worker and both boys fled the scene, running toward the van. Another speculation is that the boys stopped because there was no one left standing in the line of fire. The whole shooting probably lasted no longer than a few minutes.
The boys were apprehended by law enforcement approximately 200 yards from the scene and 10 minutes after they had begun shooting. Police officers drove along a service road and reached them as they were coming out of the woods. Officers yelled at the boys to drop their weapons; Mitchell dropped his gun, but Andrew hesitated. They repeated the