WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – A 17-year-old West Orange High School student was arrested Wednesday about two hours after a 15-year-old classmate was shot in the face during a fight on campus, according to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office said J-Morian Eddie Patrick Bell was arrested in the shooting of Ja'Roderick Smith, who was wounded around 1:15 p.m. in the bus loop at the high school, located on Beulah Road in Winter Garden just south of the Florida Turnpike. The shooting took place after classes ended Wednesday, which is an early dismissal day.
Bell was detained near the intersection of Coscester Street and Massey Avenue in west Orange County. Local 6 questioned Bell about the shooting as he was being taken to the Orange County Jail, and he replied, "I've got nothing to say to nobody."
Bell faces four charges, including attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, possession of a firearm by a juvenile and possession of a firearm on school property.
Orange County Public Schools spokeswoman Kathy Marsh said Smith was alert before he was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Officials said he was in stable condition.
Demings said he spoke to Smith and that he and his family were in good spirits.
Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said Smith had just transferred back to West Orange and it was his first day back at the school. The ninth-grader had switched back from Olympia High, but it's not clear why he transferred.
A witness told Local 6 the shooting started as a fight and ended when one of them was shot in the upper body.
"We're just walking and I turn around and there's a fight and one of them pulls a gun out and shoots him," said witness Austin Nornhold. "I saw them take the gun out and shoot him. I left right after that because I didn't want any trouble."
"(Smith) was shot in the face and the abdomen," said Demings, who stated earlier that about 100 law enforcement officers responded to the school.
"He was conscious. He was moving around," Nornhold said. "He was grabbing his head like he was pretty hurt."
Demings said school officials administered first aid to Smith before he was taken to the hospital.
Video from Local 6 News helicopter Sky 6 showed about a dozen law enforcement vehicles at the school, with a portion of the bus loop blocked off with police tape. Deputies were seen removing students from several buses and searching each vehicle before allowing the children back on board.
School officials said the students were bused to Ocoee High School at 1925 Ocoee Crown Point Parkway, where parents picked them up.
"We are exercising extreme caution with your children because safety is our first priority," Orange County Public Schools said in a phone message sent to parents.
The West Orange High School principal also posted a message to parents on the school's Facebook page.
"Good afternoon, parents. This is Douglas Szcinski, principal at WOHS. Our school is now on lockdown. We are following all safety procedures and precautions.
"There has been an incident in which one student was shot. That student is alert and is being transported to the hospital. Law enforcement is on the scene working the situation."
It's not clear why the fight broke out and the Orange County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate the shooting. School will be in session on Thursday with heightened security and counselors on hand for any students who need to talk about the shooting.
OCPS said they will continue to conduct random metal-detection screenings of all students and staff.
Meanwhile, the shooting forced officials to cancel the West Orange High basketball games Wednesday night against Dr. Phillips High School.
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