At 8:57 a.m. Friday morning, on the anniversary of the Columbine High School Shooting massacre, the Marion County Sheriff’s office in Florida announced a school shooting had taken place at Forest High School in Ocala.
“Right now deputies have responded to a shooting at Forest High School. Suspect is in custody, at this time we have one person injured and they are being treated by medics. We are asking the citizens to avoid the area. Parents, please stand by for further direction from the school on how to pick up your children,” the MCSO’s Facebook post read.
As of 10:30 a.m. ET on Friday, the MCSO shared another Facebook post, writing that SWAT officers are conducting a second sweep of Forest High School, and debunking rumors that there have been other school shootings in Marion County. Following the incident, parents were requested to go to the First Baptist Church of Ocala to be reunited with their children, who will be bused to the church. Marion County residents have also been asked by authorities to avoid the Forest High School area.
Citing Marion Public Schools spokesman Kevin Christian, CNN wrote that the injured student, who was not named, was shot in the ankle. A subsequent report from Ocala.com described the student’s injuries as “non-life-threatening.”
Speaking to Ocala.com, parent Chris Oliver related his 16-year-old son’s account of the school shooting, telling the publication that it happened near the boy’s classroom. According to Oliver, his son saw the male shooter standing in the hallway and firing at at a closed classroom door, before he dropped his gun and ran from the scene. As of this writing, the gunman has yet to be publicly identified.
The incident comes as the nation remembers the Columbine Massacre that took place 19 years ago, in which two students, seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 13 people and injured 21 others in a highly planned and coordinated attack. It also comes two months after this year’s Parkland, Florida school shooting, where a gunman identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which he had previously attended before getting expelled.
With these tragedies in mind, the Marion County School District released a statement earlier on Friday, informing students of a dedicated period to discuss issues relating to school safety, in lieu of the walkouts that other schools across the U.S. are staging today in protest of gun violence. Forest High, however, was originally scheduled to participate in the walkouts, which were canceled districtwide by school board officials after news of Friday’s shooting broke.
“Instead of walking out of class (today), Marion County students will constructively use a 30-minute time period to exchange ideas, discuss differing opinions, and offer hard-thought solutions on how our community should address school tragedies like the Parkland, Florida shooting in February,” read the statement, which was quoted by WKMG News 6.
The school district also reminded students that they have available online tools, which can be used for Friday’s gun violence and school safety awareness activities.