Reports have emerged of heartwrenching text messages terrified students at a Colorado school sent to friends and family as two gunmen went on a shooting spree that killed one and wounded eight.
An eighth-grader who was inside STEM School Highlands Ranch during Tuesday’s shooting sent a series of texts to his mother, which she shared on Facebook.
The 14-year-old boy, identified only by his first name Owen, sent a series of texts to 34-year-old Cami Brainard, who told CNN she was “terrified of this happening.”
Brainard said the two exchanged text messages for about 14 minutes as her son hid in a classroom. She posted screengrabs of the exchange on Facebook.
‘It’s a School Shooting’
Brainard told CNN she was at work at a hair salon when the texts started coming.
“There were gunshots. We are about to get escorted to leave,” her son wrote around 2:09 p.m., minutes after the shooting started, according to Brainard’s posts on Facebook.
She asked Owen if he could call.
“No,” he replied. “We have to stay quiet.”
She told CNN she could hear sirens wailing in the distance.
“Please tell me what’s going [on],” she wrote to her son.
“It’s a school shooting,” Owen replied.
This is what one student texted his mom during the Colorado school shooting @CNN https://t.co/ahmf4SNmrr The students should be told don’t text when they a gunman around you, keep on trying to get away!
— JRB (@jorgebuesajr) May 9, 2019
Brainard told CNN that at 2:23 p.m., her son texted: “We are outside.”
“Knowing that that’s my child and that he actually had lived through that … he’s going to be scarred for the rest of his life,” Brainard told CNN.
‘Attention Students, Lockdown’
Brainard later posted an audio recording her son had captured during the shooting.
“Attention students. Lockdown. Locks. Lights. Out of Sight,” can be heard in the recording.
Brainard captioned her post: “I debated posting this as I don’t want to be responsible for added trauma. This is audio my son took, trigger warning to anyone that needs it. I feel this needs to get out for as many as possible to experience what we just did. I don’t have any answers for what needs to be done but please god I beg can we do something!? Owen said his legs were shaking and his teeth were chattering he was in such fear.”
Brainard told CNN she believes sharing the texts and the audio helps raise awareness about the problem of school shootings and encourages people to be better prepared.
“I think the more people are forced to see these things, the more exposure that there is for these things, the more people realize that it can happen to them,” she told CNN.
“It’s going to happen again, unless we do something,” she said.
‘Everyone Thought It Was a Drill’
“The teacher paused for a second,” Duarte said. “She wasn’t sure whether to lock the door or not. Everyone thought it was a drill at the time.”
Duarte told the publication that she then got a text message from her friend in another classroom who had heard gunshots.
“This is real. There’s a shooter. I’m not kidding,” the message reads.
“I just want to say I love you all if anything happens,” Duarte texted her three other friends in a group chat, BuzzFeed reported.
Buzzfeed published screengrabs showing Duarte’s text exchanges.
In one of these, she texted her friends, “I feel so exposed where I’m sitting I feel it wouldn’t be hard at all to kill me.”
Duarte told Buzzfeed she showed the text messages to her teacher, prompting the teacher to order everyone to move away from the door, turn out the lights, and take up defensive positions.
She texted her family, “I feel really sick, this is not a drill, I’m really scared.”
Duarte added, “I really love you all.”
Her mother advised her to keep a low profile, writing, “remember to stay calm and quiet.”
“We really love you, it’s going to be ok,” her mother added.
Duarte continued texting with her friends.
“They’re trying to get him now. The police,” one of her friends wrote. “I just heard someone yell freeze.”
Eventually, police officers arrived in her classroom and escorted everyone to safety.
She called the experience surreal but in light of the recent history of school shootings, “not surprising that it happened.”
Wanted to ‘Go Out Fighting’
A 12-year-old student at the Colorado school where gunmen killed one and wounded eight described the tense moment the shooters approached his classroom while he armed himself and prepared to “go down fighting.”
Sixth-grader Nate Holley told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin that he was in a classroom at STEM School Highlands Ranch on Tuesday, May 7, when gunfire broke out.
“It was really chaotic,” Holley said. “Most of the kids didn’t know what to do.”
“It was incredibly scary during it and at least half the kids in my class broke into tears when it started happening,” Holley continued.
The 12-year-old said he froze as the gunmen “shot out the doors,” while the teacher ushered students to take cover behind a desk and then to the closet.
“I was hiding in the corner, and they were right outside the door. I had my hand on a metal baseball bat just in case,” Holley told CNN. “‘Cause I was gonna go down fighting if I was gonna go down.”
“I was hiding in the corner, and they were right outside the door. I had my hands on a metal baseball bat, just in case, because I was going to go down fighting if I was going to go down.”
— CNN (@CNN) May 8, 2019
Baldwin praised the boy’s courage, saying, “I would have been so, so scared, and can I just say that you are so brave to be standing there with me today. I am in awe of you.”
Two youths are accused of opening fire with handguns on fellow students on Tuesday in two classrooms at the school, located in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, about 25 miles south of Denver.
The gunmen were arrested by police after three students under fire at the school fought back. Joshua Jones and Brendan Bialy both survived, while 18-year-old robotics enthusiast Kendrick Ray Castillo was killed.
The injured includes Jones, who was shot twice, according to a statement released by his family.
Authorities said the actions of Castillo, Bialy, and Jones minimized the bloodshed from Tuesday’s attack.
Suspects Appear in Court
The two teenage suspects in Tuesday’s shooting made separate court appearances on Wednesday, a day after their arrest on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.
Douglas County District Judge Theresa Slade, who presided over both proceedings, ordered the two to remain held without bond pending their next court hearings.
The first defendant, Devon Erickson, who prosecutors said they were treating as an adult, sat silently at a small table with his head bowed, hands shackled to his waist, flanked by two defense lawyers as a pair of sheriff’s deputies stood just behind them.
Erickson’s 16-year-old accused accomplice, referred to in court by his lawyer as Alec McKinney, was listed on the court docket by the name Maya Elizabeth McKinney.
No pleas were entered.
The duo’s next court hearings are set for Friday when formal charges are expected to be filed.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.