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posted: 12/8/2017 7:00 AM

'Not a drill': Students hid in classrooms as shooter kills 2

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  • Aztec High School students and area residents gather for a candlelight vigil in Aztec, N.M., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, after a shooting at the high school. Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors, as a suspect opened fire Thursday inside the school, killing two classmates before he died.

    Aztec High School students and area residents gather for a candlelight vigil in Aztec, N.M., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, after a shooting at the high school. Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors, as a suspect opened fire Thursday inside the school, killing two classmates before he died.
    Associated Press

  • People gather for a vigil at St. Joseph Church in Aztec, N.M., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors or in closets, as a gunman opened fire Thursday inside a New Mexico high school.

    People gather for a vigil at St. Joseph Church in Aztec, N.M., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors or in closets, as a gunman opened fire Thursday inside a New Mexico high school.
    Associated Press

  • Aztec High School is shown in Aztec, N.M., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors or in closets, as a gunman opened fire Thursday inside a New Mexico high school,

    Aztec High School is shown in Aztec, N.M., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors or in closets, as a gunman opened fire Thursday inside a New Mexico high school,
    Associated Press

  • People gather for a vigil at St. Joseph Church in Aztec, N.M., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017,  Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors or in closets, as a gunman opened fire Thursday inside a New Mexico high school,

    People gather for a vigil at St. Joseph Church in Aztec, N.M., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors or in closets, as a gunman opened fire Thursday inside a New Mexico high school,
    Associated Press

  • A San Juan County Sheriff's deputy prepares for a press conference in Aztec, N.M. on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, after a school shooting at the city's high school. Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors, as a suspect opened fire Thursday inside Aztec High School, killing two classmates before ending up dead.

    A San Juan County Sheriff's deputy prepares for a press conference in Aztec, N.M. on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, after a school shooting at the city's high school. Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors, as a suspect opened fire Thursday inside Aztec High School, killing two classmates before ending up dead.
    Associated Press

  • Students are led out of Aztec High School after a shooting Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Aztec, N.M. The school is in the Four Corners region and is near the Navajo Nation. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times via AP)

    Students are led out of Aztec High School after a shooting Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Aztec, N.M. The school is in the Four Corners region and is near the Navajo Nation. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Police escort buses moving students and faculty from Aztec High School after a shooting Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Aztec, N.M. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times via AP)

    Police escort buses moving students and faculty from Aztec High School after a shooting Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Aztec, N.M. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Buses begin to move students and faculty from Aztec High School after a shooting Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Aztec, N.M.  (Jon Austria /The Daily Times via AP)

    Buses begin to move students and faculty from Aztec High School after a shooting Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Aztec, N.M. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times via AP)
    Associated Press

 
 

AZTEC, N.M. -- Students hid in their classrooms, some behind locked doors or in closets, as a gunman opened fire Thursday inside a New Mexico high school, killing two classmates before he died.

Authorities in the small town of Aztec near the Colorado border have released few details other than to say the two victims - Casey J. Marquez and Francisco I. Fernandez - attended Aztec High School. The identity of the shooter has yet to be released.

No other injuries were reported, and it was not clear if the shooter died by suicide or was killed by police.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office in a post on social media asked for the community to pray for the families of Marquez and Fernandez.

Friends were sharing their condolences on Marquez's Facebook page, which displayed photos of the teen in her cheerleading outfit. Fernandez's friends posted on his page and wore T-shirts that memorialized him during a candlelight vigil that brought together hundreds of mourners late Thursday.

Authorities planned to release more information Friday.

Bryn Divine, a senior, said she was sitting at her desk in her history class when she heard gunshots erupt down the hall. At first, it sounded as if someone was swinging a metal baseball bat against the lockers.

Then she heard an announcer over the school intercom tell students: "This is not a drill."

"I stayed in my desk, and I just prayed, 'Please just let this be over as soon as possible.' That was my first reaction," she said.

Sophomore Garrett Parker told Albuquerque television station KOAT that he also heard what he thought was banging on the lockers. Then it got louder and closer.

"Thankfully our teacher always locks the door no matter what. So he kept that locked," Parker said. "When they called over the intercom that it was not a drill, we went to the corner of the room out of sight from the door and just started hiding."

Gov. Susana Martinez called the shooting a heinous and horrific act and told reporters that teachers, school staff and law enforcement jumped in quickly to prevent more deaths. She didn't provide more details.

Police responded to the school less than a minute after getting the initial calls, which came shortly after the start of the first period. With the school in lockdown, they got inside through a window and a door.

Authorities checked each room and building at the school before the students were bused to another location where they were reunited with their parents.

The school remained cordoned off as people braved frigid temperatures for the vigil at a nearby park.

David Stone, 16, and Heaven Angelica Hughes, 15, huddled with friends in below-freezing temperatures to light candles and exchange stories. Both were in a classroom next to the shootings.

"I still can't believe what happened," Stone said. He said one of the victims was his cousin.

Aztec is a rural town of 6,500 people in the heart of northwestern New Mexico's oil and gas country and near the Navajo Nation. Its main street is lined by old brick buildings that date back more than a century.

Local, state and federal authorities said at a news conference that they had a lot of evidence to process and many interviews to conduct. They also were asking any students who might have seen something to call police.

School Superintendent Kirk Carpenter choked up, describing it as a tough day.

"At schools, our primary role and our primary job is to educate students and keep them safe, and when you have something like this, it hits you in the heart," he said.

Aztec school officials say schools across town that shut down Thursday will likely stay closed Friday.

Residents voiced disbelief on social media, while members of the New Mexico congressional delegation, state Attorney General Hector Balderas and other elected officials offered their condolences and other assistance.

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Associated Press writers Mary Hudetz and Susan Montoya Bryan contributed to this report from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

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