'I'm still grieving the death of my classmate:' Those who knew Austin Lyle at school baffled by shooting

Mar. 24—Most of Denver learned Austin Lyle's name for the first time on Wednesday when police identified him as the person they suspected of shooting two deans at East High School before fleeing, his body found later that night in Park County.

Since then, people have scrambled to fill in the blanks about his life from social media posts and scraps of information leaked about his past. Why was he subjected to daily searches for weapons before he could go into school? What drove a seemingly sweet, bright kid to do what he allegedly did? And why did he flee to Park County?

Though still little is known about Lyle, 17, two narratives have taken shape: One of an apparently troubled kid, expelled from another high school and on probation for a gun charge. A second of a sweet, dedicated student with an apparent dark side few knew of.

The Denver Gazette has not been able to reach Lyle's family members.

But a few East High students who had classes with Lyle said the alleged actions of a boy they remembered as as a kind, funny, shy and hardworking kid left them reeling.

Sophomore Addi Kirkland, who had a math class with Lyle, said at a Capitol rally Friday she and her fellow students didn't know about Lyle's safety plan or his expulsion from Overland High School before he transferred to East. She said she believes Lyle's story has more complexity than him being a bad person.

"This is a sweet guy who sat at the table next to me; someone who you interact with every day, and you don't know these things. ... This is someone who I would've told you is a good person. I'm still grieving the death of my classmate."

Lyle was reportedly on probation at the time for a charge in late 2021 of possessing a "ghost gun" — a firearm made untraceable by its lack of a serial number — and a banned large-capacity magazine, according to several news outlets.

He had been expelled from Overland High School in Aurora, part of the Cherry Creek School District, and Denver police confirmed he submitted to a daily search for weapons before he entered East High as a condition of enrolling there. The school district has declined to release details about this protocol.

One parent with a student at East High said her son and his close friend didn't know Lyle, but they had heard of a kid who had his backpack searched every day. When Wednesday's shooting happened and police released Lyle's name, she said they speculated it involved the same boy.

"They knew who it was without knowing him," said the parent, who asked not to be identified. "To me, it's really problematic on so many levels. How could he ever feel normal, if there were other kids at the school who knew that he was subjected to that?"

Social media posts have helped illustrate the contrast between information about trouble in his past and his reputation to those who knew him: The photo released to news outlets by police appears to be a mug shot. But public Facebook posts after Lyle's death show a boy standing with teammates in Aurora, and a much younger child holding a fish, a wide grin across his face.

Noah Vong, a junior who also had a math class with Lyle, echoed student Addi Kirkland's impression of him.

"He was very dedicated, hard-working and just hearing about everything that's happened with the incident, it just breaks my heart, truly."

The Denver Gazette's Tom Hellauer contributed to this report.