OCALA, Fla. – A 19-year-old man shot a 17-year-old student at a Marion County high school Friday, prompting a massive police response 19 years to the day after the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, officials said.
The shooting took place around 8:30 a.m. at Forest High School at 5000 SE Maricamp Road. Officials with the Marion County Sheriff's Office said Sky Bouche, who is a former student at the school, came on campus and shot the student for an unknown reason.
The suspect brought the gun into the school using a guitar case, sources close to the investigation told News 6.
The Sheriff's Office said the victim, who was shot in the ankle, was taken to a hospital for treatment. He suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Marion County Schools spokesman Kevin Christian said.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said school resource officer Deputy Jim Long heard a loud bang about 8:39 a.m. and immediately rushed to the source of the sound. Within three minutes, at about 8:42 a.m., Long reached the shooting scene and the shooter was in custody, officials said.
News 6 was there Friday afternoon as Bouche was escorted out of the Sheriff's Office.
When asked about his relationship to the victim, Bouche told reporters that he "shot through the door" and that he "didn't see anyone."
Bouche apologized to the victim and his family as he walked.
"Sorry," he said. "Doesn't make it better anyway."
Deputies did not say what charges Bouche was facing, but said the investigation is ongoing. FBI officials are working with the Sheriff's Office to learn more about Bouche's past, Woods said.
[Watch below: Suspect in custody]
WATCH LIVE: School shooting suspect leaves Marion County Sheriff's Office. Here's what we know: http://bit.ly/2F3W9ugPosted by News 6 WKMG / ClickOrlando on Friday, April 20, 2018
School resource officer 'acted without hesitation'
Woods said later during a press conference that Principal Brent Carson followed Long without hesitation and commended him for his bravery in working to stop the shooter.
Woods said Bouche did not resist. A motive has not been released but Woods described the shooting as "intentional."
The school, home to more than 2,300 students, was immediately placed on lockdown.
Woods commended school staff members and first responders for their quick response during the shooting. Their actions, he said, were part of the reason no one else was injured.
Gov. Rick Scott praised the school resource officer saying, "Long acted without hesitation, putting his life on the line to save the lives of countless students at Forest High School."
Scott said Long took part in the Safe Schools Roundtable in Tallahassee the governor called after the Parkland shooting.
"I want to thank him for voicing his ideas and working every day to keep our students safe," Scott said.
“What happened down south, almost came here to Marion County,” Woods said, referring to the shooting at a high school in Parkland that left 17 people dead.
Still, he said, more needs to be done to prevent further tragedies.
“It’s a shame what society has come to in that we even have to be here on a school campus. Society has changed since I was a kid, since I was in school. This is not just a law enforcement problem, this is a society problem,” Woods said.
Woods, along with the county's superintendent and school board chairwoman said that beginning Monday, all Marion County schools will have law enforcement officers on campus.
The Sheriff's Office will need to hire 34 deputies to make sure the school are fully staffed and Ocala police will need to hire an additional 16 officers, according to the sheriff.
A proposal to hire 34 new school resource deputies will be considered by the Board of County Commissioners May 1, officials said. All Marion County middle and high schools currently have one law enforcement officer on campus, while the elementary and charter schools do not, according to the sheriff.
The instillation of metal detectors was also mentioned during a news conference Friday afternoon, but Woods said there could be cons to using them.
Parents gathered at First Baptist Church of Ocala at 2801 SE Maricamp Road to pick up their children, who were taken to the church by 30-40 school buses, officials said.
The sheriff said he sent his deputy chief to visit the victim while he was receiving treatment. During the conversation, the teen said he was happy none of his classmates were hurt in the shooting.
“I am so glad it was me and not one of my friends," he told the deputy chief.
Woods called the teen a hero and told his parents they should be very proud because they have done something right in raising him.
The sheriff said the victim was in very good condition Friday afternoon.
Law enforcement officers from the Ocala Police Department, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Highway Patrol and the FBI are at the school. Authorities cleared classrooms and vehicles, and Marion County Fire Rescue set up a triage area for students who needed assistance.
Sheriff's officials said a SWAT team later conducted a secondary sweep of the school.
Christian sent a recorded phone message to parents, notifying them of what happened. The message incorrectly said, however, that a student shot a classmate.
“You cannot get on the campus and Maricamp Road is virtually blocked in front of the school,” he said.
Sheriff's officials posted the following message on Facebook: "Rumor control: No other Marion County schools have had a shooting. All schools are on a Code Yellow just as a precaution."
Officials said a Code Yellow means there's a potential threat outside a school and each campus should:
- Lock all exterior doors
- Security is increased at the main entrance of the building; visitors are screened
- Lock all interior doors; admit students and staff
- Classroom instruction and work continue
- Normal bell schedule; allow students to pass from class to class
- Site Emergency Team will clear halls and direct students and staff to classrooms and workspaces
Around 11 a.m. police rushed to West Port High School at 3733 SW 80th Ave. for a report of a gun at the school. Ocala police, however, said the report was false, but Christian said all schools were placed on Code Red as a precaution.
Christian said West Port High was deemed safe about 11:25 a.m.
The shooting comes on the same day many schools across the country are holding walkouts to protest gun violence. The Columbine High School shooting occurred on April 20, 1999.
Marion County told News 6 that its students will not participate in the walkout. The school district released a statement, saying students can talk about school tragedies during a dedicated time.
"(Today), public high school students in Marion County have the opportunity to exchange ideas and opinions when it comes to school safety. These trades of philosophies are structured around citizenship and responsible civic participation.
"Instead of walking out of class, Marion County students will constructively use a 30-minute time period to exchange ideas, discuss differing opinions, and offer hard-thought solutions on how our community should address school tragedies like the Parkland, Florida, shooting in February.
"Just days after that shooting, Marion County Superintendent Dr. Heidi Maier announced April 20 would offer students a civic opportunity and student-led activities to openly discuss and safely voice their concerns for school safety in today’s world.
"Marion County’s seven traditional public high school principals have worked with student leaders to tailor activities for their respective campuses, realizing what one campus wants is different than what another campus wants. Schools and students will recognize the difference of opinions in their student bodies during events and activities closed to the public. For safety reasons, students will not be permitted to leave campus during these specific times.
"A civic resources guide has been available at www.marionschools.net for several weeks now, providing students resources and ideas for potential activities for this Friday."
The shooting also comes one day after authorities said two deputies were killed in the line of duty in Gilchrist County. Scott said Friday in a statement that situations like the one in Marion County show the importance of law enforcement officers and urged Floridians to show their gratitude by thanking them for their service.