SHOTS RING OUT AT LAS VEGAS
SHOT IN PARKING LOT BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS
By BRIAN HAYNES,
DAVID KIHARA and ANTONIO PLANAS
January 10 2007
What began as an argument in a convenience store parking lot spilled onto the campus of Western High School
Tuesday morning, bringing gunfire and bloodshed with it.
The shooting in the school parking lot sent students scattering for cover and left two freshmen
injured by gunfire. The two injured students, a boy and a girl, were sent home after being treated at University Medical Center.
The shooting began about 6:30 a.m. as students began arriving at the campus at Decatur Boulevard and Bonanza
Sophomore Celia Gonzalez said she heard the shots as she was about to enter a school building.
She turned her head and saw a student lying on the pavement holding his leg, she said.
She and her classmates, many of whom were getting off buses, took off.
"I started running. I wasn't about to get shot," Gonzalez said. "There were a lot of people
running. Nobody knew what was going on."
Las Vegas police believe the
shooting was related to an off-campus argument at a convenience store a block north of the school.
Three Western students, including one of the shooting victims, were in a car at the intersection
of Decatur and Washington
Avenue when the gunman sped by and fishtailed into a parking lot planter at a Rebel Oil gasoline
Believing his car had been struck by the gunman's vehicle, the student pulled into the store
parking lot, yelled at the other driver and drove toward school, Las Vegas
police spokesman Jose Montoya said.
The gunman followed, and the two parties exchanged more words at a stoplight just outside
The gunman trailed the students into the school parking lot and opened fire on them as they
exited their car, Montoya said.
A 14-year-old boy was shot in the ankle and a 14-year-old girl, who was in the parking lot
and not with the intended targets, was hit by bullet shrapnel, police said.
Sophomore Kenny Ponder, 15, said he saw the gunman's blue Ford Mustang creep into the parking
lot and stop as a hand holding a gun extended from a window and fired about six shots.
Ponder ran, fearing the gunman would return.
He didn't, and within a minute, several police cars pulled into the parking lot.
After Ponder returned to Western, school officials ordered all students to stay in the cafeteria,
"I wanted to go home," he said.
Senior Michael Evers, 17, who transferred to Western four days before the incident, said he
saw the 14-year-old boy "get a hole blown in his leg."
For at least one parent, the shooting conjured up images of the deadliest school shooting
in U.S. history.
"My stomach was in my throat. ... I was thinking this is Columbine all over again," said Margie
Rearich, who fielded a call from her husband at about 7 a.m. informing her of the shooting.
Rearich, who was at Western Tuesday afternoon to pick up her son Nick, a freshman, said she
calmed down after she learned details of the incident. She said the school is generally safe and she typically sees Las Vegas police patrolling nearby streets in the morning.
She said the incident was more about street violence spilling over into the school's parking
lot than an issue directly related to school safety.
That sentiment was echoed by Principal Pearl Morgan, who oversees the school of about 2,300
"This is an isolated situation," Morgan said. "Regardless of where the students went, if an
individual wanted to accost them, he would have."
Morgan said her school is safe. In addition to the two police officers, the school has five
campus monitors and seven administrators who roam the campus throughout the day.
Morgan sent a letter home to parents Tuesday informing them of the incident.
The letter said there was no "subsequent threat to our school and students" because of the
immediate response to the shooting by school staff and police.
That is why the school was never placed on lock down and classes, which began about 30 minutes
after the shooting, were not canceled, Morgan said.
"We shouldn't have closed the school because the situation was such that it didn't affect
the student body," she said. "A lot of students weren't even aware that it happened."
The decision not to cancel classes didn't go over well with some students.
"They made us go to class after this like it was nothing," said sophomore Miranda Crespin,
who heard the shots and ran for safety inside the school.
"If there's a drive-by shooting, they should have canceled school," said freshman Josie Morale,
14. "We could have gotten shot."
Las Vegas and school district
police will run increased patrols around the Western campus today, Morgan said.
At the time of the shooting, the two police officers assigned to the school were inside, said
Lt. Ken Young, a spokesman with Clark County
School District police.
Campus police determine when and where to patrol a school, and those decisions vary from school
to school, he said.
Young would not speculate whether a police officer patrolling the parking lot could have prevented
"I can't tell you that," he said. "We're still investigating."
Patrick Fiel, a school security expert with ADT Security Services in Alexandria, Va., said shootings such as the one at Western
can be prevented by stationing security guards or building gated entrances at parking lots to make sure only students and
school staff can enter campus.
Officers posted in front of the schools, as well as security cameras, can also act as deterrents,
"A police presence is highly critical at school nowadays," he said.
School District does not restrict access to its high school parking lots.
The gunman was a black man in his late 20s to early 30s, 5 feet 10 inches tall and 170 pounds.
He wore dreadlocks, a black-and-white checkered jacket, blue jeans and blue-and-white tennis shoes. He was driving a 1986
to 1991 blue Ford Mustang LX coupe with five-star rims.
Anyone with information on the shooting can call police at 828-5634 or leave anonymous tips
with Crime Stoppers at 385-5555. Crime Stoppers offered up to a $2,000 reward.