ORLANDO, Fla. — A Seminole High School student shot another student Wednesday, prompting police to lock down the Sanford campus for several hours as they investigated.
Just before noon, school resource officers received a report of a weapon on campus and then students told them they heard gunshots. A few minutes later, an officer found the 18-year-old victim near the school’s Tomahawk building, according to the Sanford Police Department.
The victim, suffering from three gunshot wounds, was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition, the department’s spokesperson Tammy Townsend said in a statement.
SPD Chief Cecil Smith told reporters at a press conference that the 16-year-old male suspected shooter was found and arrested at about 12:20 p.m.
He faces charges of attempted first-degree murder, possession of a firearm on school property, firing a weapon on school property, disturbing the peace and interfering with school administrative functions.
Authorities have not released the name of the victim and cited Marsy’s Law, the victim’s rights amendment to Florida’s constitution.
”The preliminary information determined it centers around a dispute over a young lady at school,” Smith said. “It’s still early.”
By 2 p.m., a line of dozens of parents in cars stretched for blocks outside the school and police were stationed in the surrounding neighborhood.
Many parents vented frustrations online that the school district didn’t announce more quickly that there had been a shooting. Early social media posts mentioned “an incident” on campus but didn’t include details.
”Our district was pushing information as we were able to do so in a safe manner for our students and as we were getting information at the time,” Seminole schools Superintendent Serita Beamon said, adding there will be an increased police presence Thursday at the school.
A video shared Wednesday by a parent of a Seminole High senior showed someone on a stretcher being wheeled into a parking lot by paramedics with police officers nearby. The victim on the stretcher was sitting up. The video looked to have been filmed through a second-story window.
“It is very scary as a parent,” said the mother who shared the video and spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her child’s privacy. “I’m like a mama bear with my kids.”
The mother said her daughter, 17, was in the school’s health academy building, located next to Tomhawk on the 4,200-student campus — the district’s largest — when the incident occurred. She was locked in her classroom at 1:30 p.m. and safe.
“She’s OK,” the mother said. “I’ve been texting nonstop with her telling her to stay calm.”
The school typically dismisses classes at 1:10 p.m. on Wednesday but delayed that because of the shooting. At 3:20 p.m., the district was starting dismissal for students who rode school buses, with car riders let out about 20 minutes earlier.
Seminole High alerted parents about the shooting in automated phone calls and on its Facebook page, asking parents not to come to campus to give police time to investigate.
“This was an isolated incident. Students are safe on campus, but will remain in lockdown until cleared by law enforcement,” said another message shared by Michael Lawrence, a spokesperson for Seminole County Public Schools.
On Facebook, some parents wondered if backpack checks and metal detectors were needed, noting another Seminole High student was arrested in December after police said he brought a loaded revolver to school in his backpack.
Other parents expressed anger at school officials, saying they were too slow to share information about Wednesday’s shooting, while others praised the school’s response.
“I appreciate that the school took the necessary steps to secure the safety of the students before sending out an automated message,” one mother wrote on Facebook. “I, like many, want to be on campus and get my kid as quickly as possible but I also know what a mess it is down there and that my daughter said not to come yet. She is safe and that’s all that matters!”
Wrote another mother, “We should be notified before it comes out in the news!”
“It is very sad. When you hear it from your kids before the school even calls you to let you know they are in code red. I hope the student that was [shot] is okay,” wrote yet another.
Mental health counselors will be on Seminole’s campus Thursday if students or teachers want to speak with them, Beamon said.
“We want to be together and move forward together,” she said. “… We’re all going to be there for our students.”
(Orlando Sentinel staff writer Lisa Maria Garza contributed to this report.)