A seemingly normal morning at Waukesha South High School erupted in chaos Monday Dec 2, when a student was shot by a police officer after brandishing a gun in class. The traumatizing incident ended the school day before noon, with no injuries reported besides the student who triggered the incident.
“My heart is with the students, educators and staff of Waukesha South High School and the entire Waukesha community as they mourn and endure the trauma of today’s shooting,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement. “I am grateful for our educators and first responders who worked quickly to keep our kids safe and ensure no one else was injured.”
Waukesha Police Chief Russel Jack explained during a press conference that a male student was seen with a gun in school, and was confronted by the school resource officer and local police, who ordered him to drop the gun. The officers had already secured the classroom as scores of other teens were moved to safety, or remained behind locked classroom doors. Students later explained that teachers in other parts of the school also helped lead frightened high schoolers out of danger.
During the confrontation, law enforcement officers ordered the student to drop the gun and show his hands. When the student didn’t comply, a Waukesha Police officer fired, striking the student who then received medical treatment from officers and first responders. The incident also resulted in the lockdown of the nearby Whittier Elementary School.
Shortly before the lockdown was deactivated, the Waukesha police department tweeted: “this is an isolated incident. We are not seeking anybody else. We have no other persons of interest.” According to the department, this particular officer has 11 years of experience with the department. Investigations are still ongoing as to what prompted the student to bring a gun to school and brandish it in class.
Later the same day, Waukesha North High School also went into lockdown and a student was arrested following a report that he brought a gun to school.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Stanford Taylor issued a statement saying, “Ensuring the safety and security of our students and staff is the highest priority. The quick response today by law enforcement and staff at Waukesha South High School protected the school community. As state superintendent, I am committed to working with all our school districts to provide them the resources and supports they need to have safe and supportive environments in all our schools.”
Becky Cooper Clancy, who owns Bounce Milwaukee, was touched by the incident personally. Though she lives in Bay View, two of her children attend STEM Academy at Waukesha South. “I think shootings are front of mind for so many parents these days,” she told Wisconsin Examiner. “So when I get a text in the middle of the school day, there’s a moment while unlocking my phone when it’s like, ‘Is this going to be a nightmare?’”
Clancy received a text from her child simply stating, “I’m okay,” though she thought he was talking about having recovered from being sick recently. “At first I thought he was replying to that,” says Clancy, “then he said, ‘No there was a shooter.’ For me there was instant panic. Even after he said the threat was gone, I couldn’t calm down to process.”
“We are continuing to learn more details about the situation this morning,” said Evers. “But what I can say is it’s gut-wrenching that our kids wondered whether this was a drill or it was real—our kids shouldn’t have to fear for their life in our classrooms or at school, and no parent should have to send their kid off to school in the morning worrying about whether or not they’ll come home.”
Attorney General Josh Kaul also issued a statement: “No student should have to go through a day like the one that students at Waukesha South went through today. And no parent should have to go through a day like the one those students’ parents had today.”
Waukesha Alderman for District 12 Aaron Perry also shared his thoughts, calling the incident “the reality of gun violence in a school.” Perry mentions that this exact scenario has weighed heavy on his mind over his last six years in office. “While I’m thankful that no one lost a life, the lives of those involved today will have a memory they’ll never escape. In the coming weeks, months and years I implore us not to fall into a lull of acceptance. Regardless of any political view, we’re all community members.”
Wisconsin recently experienced a frustrating controversy after the GOP refused to hold a special session on gun control called for by Evers. Gun control has become a heavily politicized issue. “I’ve been irate about the GOP’s disgusting refusal to take action on gun laws for years,” says Clancy, “and especially in recent weeks. This cowardice put hundreds of kids at risk and continues to put kids at risk every single day they refuse to act. Was it an isolated incident? Maybe. And every single day there are more ‘isolated incidents’.”
Evers attempted to unite the state after the incident, saying, “Wisconsinites believe in helping each other in times of need, so I know we will come together to do everything we can to support the Waukesha community as they begin to heal. Today is a grim reminder that this can happen anywhere, but I do not accept — nor should we accept — that this is an inevitable reality for our kids, our communities, our state, or our country.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the school resource officer was the one who shot the student. In fact, the gun was fired by an officer from the Waukesha Police Department. The Examiner regrets the error.