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NM's Aztec High School Remains Closed Following Deadly Shooting

School officials in Aztec, N. M., say they need more time to prepare teachers before they reopen the high school where two students were killed last week. (
School officials in Aztec, N. M., say they need more time to prepare teachers before they reopen the high school where two students were killed last week. (
December 11, 2017

AZTEC, N.M. -- Classes are cancelled at all public schools in Aztec, N.M, today as staff and counselors prepare for emotional conversations, after a school shooting there took two students' lives last week.

A 21-year-old gunman pretending to be a student at Aztec High School walked into the school building last Thursday and shot 18-year old Francisco Fernandez in a restroom, and 17-year old Casey Marquez in a hallway. He then entered an empty classroom and fired multiple shots before killing himself as police arrived.

School Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said repairs are needed before the school can reopen.

"Our timeline, we actually don't know. I mean, we have crews on campus and they are making repairs as we speak,” Carpenter said. "So, our biggest thing right now is making sure that, first and foremost, we're taking care of students and staff on the emotional side of things. And that's our biggest concern, obviously."

All middle and elementary school students and Vista Nueva High School students will return to school on Tuesday.

This Thursday, December 14, marks five years since the massacre of 20 children at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich called the shooting "a parent's biggest nightmare" and said gun violence has touched far too many. Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, said when her group makes classroom presentations, two-thirds of students say they know someone who has been a victim of gun violence.

"Schools are supposed to be a place of learning, and the fact is that no child or teacher is safe from gun violence every time they step inside a school or classroom in this country,” Viscoli said.

Active-shooter drills are now part of the school curriculum, and Viscoli said she believes lives were saved in an Aztec classroom because a teacher quickly hid her students.

"These kids knew what to do, the teachers knew what to do, and the police were very well-trained and knew what to do in Aztec,” she said. "And so, I think that's a huge gratitude out to the teachers and law enforcement that were clear-headed enough during the Aztec shooting to make sure not more kids were killed."

Authorities say the shooter left a note saying he hated life and planned to die after killing Aztec High students.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM