By Keith Coffman
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - A student seeking to confront one of his teachers opened fire at a Colorado high school on Friday, wounding at least two classmates before apparently taking his own life, law enforcement officials said.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson told a televised news conference that one student victim was in serious condition with gunshot wounds at a local hospital. A second suffered minor injuries and may not have been hit by bullets.
Robinson said the suspected gunman "identified a specific teacher at Arapahoe High School that he was interested in confronting, and that teacher was informed of the situation and exited the school quickly."
The accused shooter was later found dead inside the school after he "apparently killed himself," the sheriff said, adding that authorities knew the boy's identity and were in contact with his family. He did not reveal his name.
The incident comes a day before the first anniversary of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School before killing himself.
Holly Schaefer an 18-year-old senior at the school, was in mathematics class when she and fellow students heard a loud bang, she said. That was followed shortly by another bang, and "then we knew definitely it was a gunshot."
Schaefer said her teacher immediately initiated lockdown procedures, shutting the door to the classroom as students huddled in a corner of the room.
After about 30 minutes, Schaefer said, they heard police calling out on the other side of the door. Officers eventually cleared her classroom and as students were being escorted out of the building, she said she saw blood on the hallway floor.
'SHAKING, CRYING, FREAKING OUT'
Television images from the high school showed students running out with their hands raised and gathering on a track field. Some students were shown being patted down in the aftermath.
Robinson said officers in Colorado were "slowly and methodically" clearing the school and transporting students by bus to a nearby church, but believed the danger had passed. He said the entire incident lasted 14 minutes.
"We were having fun and laughing and then all of sudden we heard a really loud bang, and my teacher asked what it was, and then we heard two more, and we all just got up and screamed and ran into a sprinkler system room," student Whitney Riley, 15, told CNN. "It sounded like it was coming from the hall that was near us."
"We were shaking, we were crying, we were freaking out. I had a girl biting my arm," she said. "We stayed quiet and we heard a whole bunch of sounds. We heard people yelling, we heard walkie-talkies."
A woman who answered the phone at a Yogurtland across the street said her store was being evacuated and dozens of police officers were at the school with guns drawn.
Phone calls to the Arapahoe High School were not answered. A spokesman for Littleton Public Schools, the district that administers the school, said the school had been placed on lockdown.
Centennial is a suburban community south of Denver, not far from the unincorporated community in nearby Jefferson County that is home to Columbine High School, where two students gunned down 13 students and staff before killing themselves in 1999.
(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman, Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Sandra Maler and Gunna Dickson)