About 8 a.m. Wednesday, an unidentified 19-year-old entered Dixon High School in Dixon, Illinois, and started firing shots near a gymnasium where rehearsal for senior graduation was taking place. The school’s resource officer approached the gunman who then fled on foot. The officer followed the suspect who shot at him several times during the pursuit, but did not manage to strike the officer. Eventually the suspect was shot but not killed and was taken into custody just west of the high school. The suspect’s injuries are not life-threatening, and no one else was injured.
The shooter’s identity has not been released, but Dixon Police Chief Steven Howell stated in a news conference this morning that the shooter was a former student of the school. The Chicago Tribune identified the officer who engaged with the gunman as school resource officer Mark Dallas. Howell had high praise for Dallas who “charged toward the suspect and confronted him head on.” He continued by saying that the officer’s courage undoubtedly saved many lives by keeping a dangerous situation from escalating. Dallas has been put on paid administrative leave as required by department policy following this type of incident.
Former student shot by officer during gunfire exchange at graduation practice in Dixon High School gym.
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) May 16, 2018
Authorities also attribute the lack of injuries with the training students have received that teaches them what to do in case of an active shooter on school grounds. They did exactly what they had been trained to do by barricading themselves in their classrooms using chairs, desks, and other furniture. The school resource officer position has been in place at Dixon High School in 2000 when it was created in response to the rise in school violence. One other school in Dixon, Regan Middle School, also has a school resource officer on their grounds.
One student who was present when the shooting broke out described his experience.
“All of a sudden out of nowhere, you just here pop, pop, pop! Sounds like firecrackers, and then there’s dead silence. Then all of sudden a teacher comes in and says, ‘Go, go, go!’ and everybody floods out of the school and into the cafeteria.”
The city of Dixon is located about 100 miles from Chicago. When school authorities reported gunshots at the high school, all public schools in the city were put on lockdown according to New York Daily News. All schools except Dixon High School were taken off lockdown and resumed normal activity by the end of the day.
Wednesday’s shooting brings this year’s total school shootings in which someone was injured or killed to 22. The last one was in Palmdale, California, on May 11 where one person was injured and a suspect was arrested.