Reno school boss praises quick police response in shooting

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2016 8:01 PM
Reno school boss praises quick police response in shooting

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The head of the Nevada school district where a campus officer shot a knife-wielding high school student praised the quick police response that she says helped avert what could have been a much more dangerous situation.

The 14-year-old boy remained in critical condition Thursday at a Reno hospital with a gunshot wound. He was shot in an outdoor courtyard at Reno's Hug High School on Wednesday after Reno police say he was threatening other students and refused orders to drop the knife.

Washoe County School Superintendent Traci Davis told reporters Thursday that she couldn't comment on any details of an ongoing investigation led by Reno police. She wanted to thank the school district officers "who acted swiftly to protect the safety of our students."

"Had it not been for their quick action and professionalism, I truly believe that the outcome could have been much worse for our students," Davis said at a brief news conference at district headquarters where she refused to take questions.

School Police Chief Jason Trevino repeated a plea made by Reno police on Wednesday not to rush to any conclusions about the chain of events that led up to the shooting based on video clips posted on social media. "Please remember, these accounts don't tell the whole story," Trevino said.

The online postings include video that appears to show a male teenager wearing a blue shirt and white pants pacing and wielding a large kitchen knife in a circle of onlookers in an outdoor quad. Another appears to capture the sound of a single gunshot and several students screaming before the camera shows the boy writhing in pain on the ground.

Reno police officer Tim Broadway acknowledged there's some "disturbing video out there."

"But there are other events that led up to this incident, so please don't react to those," he told reporters outside the school within hours of Wednesday's 11:30 a.m. shooting.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that the boy's father has hired a prominent Reno criminal defense attorney, David Houston, to represent his son. Houston's past clients have included former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan and Joe Francis, founder of the "Girls Gone Wild" video empire.

Houston did not immediately respond to telephone calls or emails from The Associated Press on Thursday seeking comment. He said in a statement provided to NBC News on Thursday there are "many questions to be answered as to what happened and what could have been done to avoid the use of lethal force."

"We believe options were available to law enforcement that were not pursued," Houston said.

No charges have been filed in the case. The AP has not identified the boy because he is a juvenile.

On a Facebook post that appears to belong to the boy's father, the father says his son was bullied at school and armed himself to defend himself from the attacks. He said school officials were aware of the bullying and should have taken steps to prevent it. He also said that it appears his son will survive the shooting, but didn't provide any other details.

Reno police and school officials have refused to comment on any of the details of the shooting or incidents that led up to it.

Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said at a news conference Wednesday night that the teen had been "armed with at least one knife and threatening other students" during a fight at the high school in a working-class neighborhood on the city's north side.

The student failed to comply with the school police officer's verbal commands to drop the knife, and the officer ultimately fired his service weapon, "striking the student and ... stopping the threat," the chief said.

"Once the threat was stopped, the officer immediately began to provide medical aid to the student until emergency medical assistance arrived," Soto said.

The start of school was delayed two hours throughout Reno on Thursday because of snow. But otherwise, classes resumed on a normal schedule at Hug High School, where counselors were available to assist any students or staff who needed assistance, Davis said.

Davis told reporters "100 percent of the staff" reported to work at the high school on Thursday, and she commended the community and students' families "for remaining calm and supportive of our children during this very difficult time."

"As a parent, I understand the panic and fear felt by Hug parents. This is a reminder of the value of life and the duty we have to protect our children and our staff, each and every day," Davis said.

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Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.