A High School Student Who Had To Be Patted Down Every Morning As Part Of A Safety Plan Shot Two Staff Members, Police Said

Emergency personnel remove police tape outside East High School after a school shooting on Wednesday in Denver. 

Emergency personnel remove police tape outside East High School after a school shooting on Wednesday in Denver.

Hyoung Chang / AP

A Denver high school student who shot two adult staff members while being patted down was found dead late on Wednesday, police said.

The body of the suspect was found near his car in a remote mountain area in Park County, about 120 miles from Denver, after an hourslong search. The Park County Coroner's Office later confirmed it was 17-year-old Austin Lyle, whom police previously identified as the suspect. Lyle died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the coroner said.

Police were called about a shooting at East High School at around 9:50 a.m. and found two adults with gunshot wounds. The victims, both men, were taken to the hospital. One was in critical condition and the other was stable, Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said at a news conference.

Lyle was under a safety plan that required him to be searched at the start of every school day. During the search, which officials said took place outside the school building and away from other students, a firearm was located on the student and "several shots were fired," Thomas said. He then fled the scene.

Police said Lyle was wanted for attempted homicide, and offered a cash reward to anyone who reports seeing him or knowing his whereabouts. On Wednesday evening, authorities said they found his car, a red 2005 Volvo SUV, but he was still on the loose.

  Denver Police Department / Via Twitter: @DenverPolice
Denver Police Department / Via Twitter: @DenverPolice

"He obviously is armed and dangerous and willing to use the weapon, as we learned this morning," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said.

Park County law enforcement found the suspect's vehicle on a rural mountain road that evening, and issued a shelter in place alert for residents nearby. Hours later, Sheriff Tom McGraw said at a press conference they had found the suspect's body.

According to Thomas, school officials had not found a gun on the student in previous searches, until Wednesday.

Alex Marrero, the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, declined to elaborate as to why the student was put on a safety plan. But he said that students are put on safety plans based on "educational and also behavioral experiences that each individual student may have exhibited in the past."

At the time of the shooting, paramedics were already at the school because of an unrelated incident involving a student who had an allergic reaction, and so they were able to immediately administer treatment to the two adult victims, authorities said.

A spokesperson for the school district declined to comment on the police investigation.

"We are heartbroken by today's events, but we are hopeful that this further highlights the brave voices of our student, parent and faculty advocates in inspiring the genuine change we need for our local and national community," the school district said.

The shooting is the latest in a string of incidents involving gun violence at East High School. In February, Luis Garcia, a 16-year-old student, was shot while in sitting his car near school grounds. He died two weeks later.

His fellow East High students walked out of class to the state Capitol in early March to protest gun violence and advocate for more stringent gun control measures.

Since then, students have been subjected to multiple gun violence–related lockdowns, including on Wednesday.

Ben Roy, a parent to an East High senior, told the Denver Post that it has been "relentless" for students this year.

"It feels like every other week there’s been a perimeter lockdown," Roy said. "It’s just constant."

Marrero, the superintendent, said two armed officers will be assigned to East High until the end of the school year.

The American Public Health Association says gun violence in the US is a public health crisis. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. As of March 22, at least 3,944 people have died from gun violence this year, and another 5,346 have died by suicide, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.

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