Student fatally shot at S.C. middle school, sheriff says; suspect in custody
GREENVILLE, S.C. (WHNS/Gray News) - The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office said a student has died and a suspect is in custody after a shooting at Tanglewood Middle School.
A school resource officer at Tanglewood Middle School requested emergency backup just before 12:30 p.m., when deputies said a 12-year-old student was shot. Jamari Cortez Bonaparte Jackson was transported to the hospital.
Jackson died at the hospital.
The community organization Fighting Injustice Together released a statement on behalf of the Jackson family: “We are all devastated by today’s tragedy. We love Jamari dearly and we would ask that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this very difficult time.”
Just after 1:45 p.m., deputies said the shooting suspect was taken into custody. Deputies said the suspect is also a 12-year-old. He was detained in close proximity to the school. The sheriff’s office said deputies are not looking for any additional suspects.
Deputies said the suspect shot the victim in the 700 wing of the school before running from the property. He was found hiding under a deck at a home in the 3000 block of Easley Bridge Road.
A handgun was recovered.
The suspect, whose name has not been released due to his age, is charged with murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, possession of a firearm on school property and unlawful possession of a weapon by a person under age 18.
The motive for the shooting is unknown, but deputies said the suspect and the victim were familiar with each other.
All students from Tanglewood Middle School were taken to Brookwood Church to be reunited with their families.
Director of Media Relations for Greenville County School District Tim Waller said the school had counselors at Brookwood Church talking with kids and parents for a few hours following the shooting.
Waller said the school district partners with Greenville Mental Health to put counselors in schools and employs about 90 counselors in the school district.
The sheriff’s office said over 100 deputies responded to the scene. The sheriff’s office helicopter was also seen over the scene.
Investigators were searching the school to make sure everyone is safely out of the building.
The Greenville County School District released the following statement: “At approximately 12:30 pm, Greenville County Schools had reports of shots fired inside the building at Tanglewood Middle School. The school resource officer immediately responded and notified law enforcement. Multiple law enforcement agencies have responded. One student has been transported to the hospital, and their condition is unknown at this time. All students will be transported at Brookwood Church at 580 Brookwood Point Place, Simpsonville, SC 29681, where parents will be reunited with their student. Parents will not be able to pick up their student at Tanglewood. Parents will need to have identification in order to pick up their student. We will share more information as soon as possible.”
Just before 2:30 p.m., Sheriff Hobart Lewis held a press conference. He called the shooting an “absolute tragedy” and said deputies do not know what was going through the mind of the gunman at the time of the shooting.
Lewis said the school went into immediate lockdown after a gunshot was heard. The shooting occurred in the front part of the school. First responders rendered aid to the victim.
Dr. Burke Royster, the superintendent of Greenville County Schools, said pickup at other Greenville County schools would be impacted since buses from other parts of the district are being used to transport Tanglewood Middle School students to the church for pickup.
“Our prayers for those affected by this tragedy - the victim, but all the students in that school, the families, anybody that was in some way impacted by this traumatic event,” Royster said. “We could not have had a better, a more rapid, a more professional or a more in accordance with a planned response by every agency and every entity that responded to this situation.”
In a statement, Royster said: “We are deeply saddened to hear that the student victim in the shooting at Tanglewood Middle School passed away. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his fellow students, the staff members at the school and everyone who knew this child. This is an absolute tragedy, and we will continue to do whatever we can to support his family and the Tanglewood community as they mourn the young life that was lost today.
“We want to recognize the tremendous response from Principal Walles and the staff at Tanglewood, the school resource officer, Sheriff Hobart Lewis, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, EMS, and the multiple local, state and federal law enforcement agencies who all responded rapidly in accord with our emergency response plan.”
Dr. Graysen Walles, the principal of Tanglewood Middle School, said in a statement: “My heart goes out to the family of our student who passed away, and my prayers are with them. Our entire Tanglewood family is hurting with this news and from the events that took place today. Our school is mourning and will work together to heal and process this tragedy.”
Kelvin, a sixth-grade student at Tanglewood Middle School, described hiding during the shooting.
“I was just scared. We were hiding in the cafeteria,” Kelvin said. “I didn’t know what to do and then the police came in. I thought it was one of the shooters.”
FOX Carolina crews spoke to multiple concerned family members working to get in touch with their children at Tanglewood Middle School.
“They were trying to calm me,” said parent Nacy Trejo. “I was just crying. I was desperate. I wanted to hear from my son.”
Trejo said she believes metal detectors need to be placed at the school.
Bruce Wilson, the founder of Fighting Injustice Together, was at the scene because his niece is a student at Tanglewood Middle School.
“It’s difficult right now, especially a lot of parents are out here right now and they don’t know what’s going on,” Wilson said. “These types of shootings, you see this on television a lot, but when it happens at home and it happens to you, it’s difficult.”
“I wanted to get here as soon as I heard,” said Pastor John Gray. “I wanted to get to the parents because I understand there was some terrible conflict with parents trying to get to their children.”
Gray said his church Relentless Church mentors some of the kids at the school every week.
“So this hits very close to home,” said Gray.
Alexis Ware, a woman whose mother works at Tanglewood Middle School, described finding out about the shooting.
“I was absolutely terrified for my mother and the students,” she said.
Chad Ayers, a former deputy and founder of ProActive Response Group, which teaches active shooter response, described it as “one of the saddest days in Greenville County.”
“This is no longer a topic we can brush under the table and say, ‘This won’t happen here,’” Ayers said. “You have to have a plan. We’ve seen this happen at concerts, at schools. It’s not just school shootings anymore. We are seeing these events on the rise.”
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