The students at Forest High School in Ocala, Florida had planned to participate in the national walkout against gun violence Friday morning. But a student was shot at the high school before the walkout started, sparking a school evacuation and sending the rest of the district into lockdown.
One 17-year-old student was injured and has been hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. The shooter — a 19-year-old man who is not a student at the school — was taken into custody by a school resource officer within three minutes of the shooting at 8:39 a.m., Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said at a press conference Friday. The school resource officer did not fire any shots, and the shooter was taken into custody without resistance. Woods said the shooting was intentional, but could not confirm whether the shooter and the victim knew each other.
“It’s a shame what society has come to, and that we even have to be here on a school campus. You know, society has changed since I was a kid, since I was in school. This is not just a law enforcement problem, this is a society problem,” Woods said, adding that he spent Thursday in nearby Gilchrist County, where two sheriff’s deputies were shot and killed at a restaurant. “We as a whole need to do something. My feelings, my emotions are running rampant.”
On Thursday, Forest High School shared information about the walkout, which was scheduled to start at 10:20 a.m., inviting any student to participate in the “student-led civic demonstration” if they chose to. Students across the country participated in the National School Walkout on Friday, which marks the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School.
Woods said he did not know whether Friday’s shooting was related to the date of April 20, given that it coincided with the national walkout and the Columbine anniversary. The Forest High School shooting came more than two months after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — a mass shooting that has sparked multiple marches and walkouts against gun violence.
“What happened down south almost came here to Marion County, and they need to stop,” Woods said at Friday’s press conference.
“I’m angry, I’m sad, and I want to do something,” he said. “And we will do something, and we are doing something, and it’s evident by what was accomplished — the success of the actions of the first responders today.”
Forest High School students were evacuated to the First Baptist Church of Ocala, where their parents picked them up. Authorities said there was no shooting at any other Marion County school, but all schools were placed on lockdown as a precaution.