FORT GIBSON, Okla. (BP)–Four students were shot and one other injured Dec. 6 as Fort Gibson (Okla.) Middle School became the latest scene of an ever-growing list of school shootings.
All of the injured students, one of whom is active in the town’s First Baptist Church, are expected to make a full recovery.
Students were waiting outside the middle school, just as they do every school day, when 13-year-old Seth Trickey arrived.
Witnesses said Trickey set his backpack on the ground, pulled out a 9-mm handgun, shot twice into the ground and then shot several times into the crowd of students.
One student also reported that he said, “I’m crazy, I’m crazy,” before firing the gun.
The crowd quickly dispersed as the students took cover in the middle school building. A security guard took the gun from Trickey, who was still pulling the trigger after all the rounds were fired.
Among those shot was Savana Knowles, 12, the First Baptist youth, shot in the cheek; Bradley Schindel, 12, shot once in each arm; Cody Chronister, 13, shot once in his forearm, and William “Billy” Railey, 13, shot in his leg.
Knowles was airlifted to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, where she underwent three hours of surgery. She was listed in fair condition. Schindel was airlifted to Tulsa Regional Medical Center and was in fair condition.
Railey and Chronister were treated at Muskogee Regional Medical Center and listed in good condition.
A fifth student, whose name was not released, was treated for minor injuries suffered when trying to avoid flying bullets.
Fort Gibson is a quiet town of 3,300 people eight miles east of Muskogee in northeastern Oklahoma. It has a number of tourist attractions, including the old Fort Gibson Stockade and is just south of Fort Gibson Lake.
The school system’s administrative offices are in the center of the school complex, with the elementary school to the north, the middle school to the northeast, the cafeteria to the east and the high school to the south.
Carol Cook, a member of Fort Gibson’s First Baptist Church, works in the administration building as a financial secretary. She was scheduled to attend a workshop in McAlester and stopped by the office for a minute.
“There were cars backed up all over the place,” she said. “I asked what was going on and someone said some kids had been shot. Needless to say, I never made it to McAlester.”
Cook said Savana Knowles’ father is involved in Promise Keepers, describing the whole family as “strong Christian people.”
She said the school shootings were a shock to the whole community. “I’ve lived here all my life,” she said. “There have been political difficulties on occasion, but as far as a shooting, I don’t know of any.”
Gary Sparks, the high school principal and a First Baptist member, said he was unaware of the shooting until afterwards. “We’re just keeping them in our prayers,” he said. “We’re thankful that there weren’t any killed.”
Sparks said the high school had security cameras installed this year, and the middle school was next on the schedule to get cameras.
Since the shooting occurred outside, though, it is doubtful that cameras would have made a difference.
One immediate need at the middle school was counseling. Within hours of the shooting, counselors arrived from Project Heartland, formed in Oklahoma City to counsel families and victims of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Kent Mathews, son of former Baptist Messenger associate editor Bob Mathews, said counselors are there to help students deal with the anger, shock and fear that comes about naturally when people suffer trauma.
“We are here to offer whatever services we can,” he said. “We’re just doing the same thing we have been doing since the bombing.”
Counselors recommend that parents and family members talk to students about the shooting and allow them to express their feelings, whatever those feelings may be.
Parker is assistant editor of the Baptist Messenger.