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Mount Horeb Area School District offers resources to families after shooting of armed student

District holds 'demonstration of community cohesion' after an armed student was shot outside of a school Wednesday

People wait to pick up students Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at Life Church in Mount Horeb. Angela Major/WPR

A day after police shot and killed an armed student outside Mount Horeb Middle School, school district officials opened the doors of the high school for a “demonstration of community cohesion.”

On Wednesday, a student classmates described as a 14-year-old boy arrived at the middle school in the late morning with a gun. The armed student never made it inside the school. He was shot and killed by Mount Horeb Police officers who had rushed to the school after receiving a call about an armed person.

No one but the armed student was harmed. But the event was terrifying for students and families, with some children fleeing the school and hiding, while others remained on lockdown for hours after the shooting before they were released to families.

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“Our community has experienced a collective crisis and together we will provide support and work toward recovery. As a parent or caregiver, you have a powerful opportunity to support your child,” Superintendent Steve Salerno wrote

Emergency vehicles respond to a report of an active shooter outside the school around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Angela Major/WPR

Salerno told families the high school commons would be open for the gathering from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“Resources will be available for families and a brief activity will be planned,” he said.

Mount Horeb schools were closed Thursday. But the district statement said it was “important for for recovery to return to a predictable and normal routine” and parents would be updated on the schedule for coming days.

“When children are impacted by a crisis, access to social supports, including time with supportive family, is a proven intervention to help them recover. Spending time with them to answer their questions and provide comfort and support is the first step,” Salerno wrote. 

In a separate Facebook post Thursday, Mount Horeb Police Chief Doug Vierck acknowledged the process of releasing students from school after the shooting took longer than families wanted. 

“Due to the number of resources needed to coordinate the response and the number of calls and information, there was a longer delay than anyone probably wanted for reuniting the children back to their families,” Vierck wrote.  “Know that the timeline and decisions made were in the best interest of safety for the children and staff while we confirmed critical details.” 

People wait to pick up students Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at Life Church in Mount Horeb. Angela Major/WPR

Law enforcement is releasing few details about the incident while the investigation into the police shooting and the events that led up to it are underway. Vierck also asked the community to be careful about sharing rumors.

“We understand there is limited information available and we are working as quickly as we can to move forward so we can come to a closure,” the police chief wrote.

The state’s Division of Criminal Investigation is leading the investigation. Speaking at a press conference hours after the shooting, Attorney General Josh Kaul said he could not say whether the student had exchanged gunfire with police, or whether police had had previous contact with the teen. He said multiple officers were involved in the incident and were placed on leave while the investigation is underway, a standard action when officers are involved in a shooting.

Speaking to reporters hours after the shooting, Salerno thanked school staff and first responders for acting quickly. 

“This could have been a far worse tragedy,” he said. “We’re beyond grateful for the community support of our beautiful children. “

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