Story by Ashley Traylor, News Editor
Terror Hits Home
Terror struck again but this time it hit closer to home. Two students are dead, 18 others injured and a 15-year-old student remains in custody charged for the shooting rampage on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky.
Rick Sanders, Kentucky State Police commissioner, identified the deceased victims as 15-year-old Bailey Nicole Holt and 15-year-old Preston Ryan Cope.
Holt was pronounced dead on-scene. Cope was taken to Vanderbilt Medical Center where he later passed away.
Twenty students were injured, 15 of those were gunshot-related while five students were injured trying to escape the building. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were five students in critical condition at Vanderbilt.
In the crowded Commons Area before school, a 15-year-old male student opened fire at 7:57 a.m.
Law and Order
Sanders said at 7:59 a.m. police received 911 calls and by 8:06 a.m. first responders were on the scene. The alleged suspect was apprehended at the school in a “non-violent manner,” and faces two counts of murder and twelve counts of first-degree assault.
Authorities originally said the teen would be charged with 12 counts of attempted murder. However, at a press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 24, Marshall County Assistant County Attorney, Jason Darnall announced that after reviewing the evidence, the first-degree assault charges were more fitting.
Darnall said it was important to point out that first-degree assault and attempted murder carry the same penalty if convicted.
The suspected gunman was taken to a juvenile detention center.
Gov. Matt Bevin flew into Benton, Kentucky on Tuesday afternoon to be briefed on the shooting and to address the media.
Bevin asked for everyone to be respectful and considerate of the families and the community, as they grieve and try to heal from the incident.
“It is heartbreaking,” Bevin said as he got choked up at the podium. “I beg of you again. Respect the fact that these children belong to this community and to specific families in this community and this is a wound that is going to take a long time to heal and for some in this community this will never fully heal.”
Other notable reactions came from the prime minister of Canada, Kentucky basketball coach, John Calipari, Sens. Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, and Gabby Giffords, Rep. James Comer and singer, Sheryl Crow. It wasn’t until Wednesday, Jan. 24 that President Donald Trump made his first remarks regarding the shooting, coming under scrutiny.
Trump took to Twitter to express his sympathies.
All Too Familiar
This was not western Kentucky’s first school shooting.
Just over a month ago, the community gathered to remember the victims of the Heath High School shooting that happened 20 years ago.
Three students were killed on Dec. 1, 1997 when then 14-year-old Michael Carneal opened fire on a prayer vigil moments before the start of the school day.
Five other students were also shot that day including Missy Jenkins-Smith. For her, the Marshall County High School shooting was all too familiar.
“Anytime there is a school shooting, I am emotionally affected,” Jenkins-Smith wrote on her Facebook page. “But what happened at Marshall County High School yesterday was overpowering. I’ve spoken in that district. I know people there. And the details were so eerily similar to the Heath shooting…the number of kids shot, the number of kids killed, the ages of the victims, the age of the shooter, even the time the shooting occurred.”
Jenkins-Smith said her “mantra” for two decades has been ‘I choose to be happy,” she wrote. “But it didn’t feel like a choice yesterday. It still doesn’t today. I know that day will come again very soon, but I’m not going to force it, just like those at Marshall shouldn’t force anything. Let your feelings happen naturally. Grieve. And know that all of us from Heath are grieving with you.”
A counseling center was set up at the “old Pepsi bottling plant” in Benton. Counselors are available through at least Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The Murray State University Counseling is available for students at 270-809-6851. Faculty and staff requiring assistance are encouraged to contact the University’s Employee Assistance Program at 800-441-1327.