On Monday, the first day in-person learning restarted in Arkansas, one student was injured during a shooting at Watson Chapel Junior High School in Pine Bluff. According to the school district’s Facebook page, as of yesterday afternoon, all district campuses remain in lockdown following the shooting, which the district described as an “isolated incident.” The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and the Pine Bluff Police Department are reportedly on the scene to “control the situation.”
The shooting took place as students were changing classrooms to go to their next classes. Upon hearing gunshots, all students were abruptly moved to the gymnasium per protocol.
In a press briefing on Monday afternoon, Pine Bluff police detailed the events. According to Chief of Police Kelvin Sergeant, the department was alerted of the shooting at 9:59 a.m. and the first officer arrived at the school at 10:02 a.m. The victim, who is 15, was taken to Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff before being transferred to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. He is currently in “serious condition,” according to officers.
Police also announced that they currently have a 15-year-old male suspect in custody. The suspect had initially fled the scene to hide behind a home on one of the neighbouring streets. When police found him, he was taken to the Jack Jones Juvenile Detention Center in Pine Bluff.
According to the school district’s Facebook page, which has continued to post updates throughout the day, the parents of the student who was shot were notified, and all other students were declared safe.
In the hours following the shooting, local news outlet KATV shared video footage of multiple cars backed up on the road leading to Watson Chapel Junior High School, mostly filled with parents who were attempting to pick up their children. Police officers remained at the scene the entire time.
Sergeant reiterated that the department believed the shooting to be an isolated incident and wouldn’t speak to whether it was the result of gang-related activity. Whether the suspect will be tried as a juvenile or an adult will be announced in the next 36 to 48 hours.
The family of the victim has yet to release a statement.