Police have charged a 16-year old Cleveland High School student with attempted murder after the teen is said to have fired a gun inside the school early Thursday morning.
It happened around 7 a.m. before school started. Witnesses say the suspect, 16-year-old Joshua Owen fired at least one shot into the air in a hallway at the high school. No one was injured.
Owen was booked into the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center Thursday, but so far Rio Rancho Police haven’t said why they believe he fired a gun.
While no one was hurt, students and parents say the events made for an emotional day.
“We heard this loud bang and teachers were saying it may have just been a balloon for Valentine’s Day,” said Cleveland High freshman Andrew Slaten in an interview KRQE News 13 Thursday.
“It was too loud to be a balloon,” said Slaten.
Another student, sophomore Matthew Vogel said he was close to the suspected gunman, seeing him draw the weapon and fire.
“I was walking, I was right behind the kid, he pulls out the gun, shoots it twice, runs off and I just turn around running scared,” said Vogel.
Police wouldn’t say Thursday what exactly the gunshot hit.
After the shot, school staff told students to go to the gym, then evacuate to the fields behind the complex.
Police say as Owen ran off where the area of the gunshot, he dropped the gun on school grounds and continued to run off campus. Owen was arrested in an arroyo about a mile away from the school.
At a news conference Thursday morning, Rio Rancho Police were asked about a possible motive, or if Owen was targeting anyone at the school.
“That I don’t know, I know that they’re interviewing him at this time,” said Chief Stewart Steele of the Rio Rancho Police Department.
In a news release Thursday evening, police announced that Owen was facing three counts of attempted murder. While police haven’t released a criminal complaint or narrative of what happened, the charges appear to indicate that Owen may have been targeting three individuals at the school.
“Extremely scary, I mean it was.. it set my heart into my throat and I wasn’t in the school, so I can’t imagine being a student here and what they went through,” said Chief Steele.
Rio Rancho Schools Superintendent V. Sue Cleveland said Thursday that was she’s happy with how the school responded to the incident.
“Our focus all morning was on the safety and the security of those students,” said Dr. Cleveland.
“I echo what the chief has said, we had a very good plan in place, that plan was executed with precision,” said Dr. Cleveland. “When people know what they’re supposed to do, they do it well.”
Cleveland said the district is still looking toward implementing other school security measures in the near future including armed guards and a gunshot detection system at both high schools. However, the district could not say when that would happen.
At Thursday’s news conference, the superintendent also expressed support for State Sen. Craig Brandt’s bill to give incentives to former law enforcement to become school resource officers, like cost of living increases. That bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee.
In an email to parents, the district says Cleveland High School will remain closed until Tuesday. When classes do resume, the district says it will have counseling and other helpful resources available for students and staff.
In all, the suspect, Owen, is facing three counts of attempted murder, one count of unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school grounds and one count of unlawful possession of a handgun by a person under 19 years of age.