By DON JACOBS and LOLA ALAPO
Scripps Howard News Service
November 09, 2005
Kenny Bartley Jr., a freshman at the school, allegedly shot Assistant Principal Ken Bruce in the chest, said Campbell County Sheriff Ron McClellan. Bruce was transported to St. Mary's Hospital in LaFollette, Tenn., where he was pronounced dead.
Campbell County Comprehensive High School Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce were flown by medical helicopter to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Seale, suffering a bullet wound to the groin area, was listed in serious condition. Pierce was shot in the arm, but the round then entered his lung. He was listed in critical condition.
Bartley was being held Tuesday night in the Richard L. Bean Juvenile Service Center in Knoxville, Tenn., juvenile officials said. McClellan said he expects formal criminal charges to be filed Wednesday against the teen.
"We'll make a determination on charges later, after we've gathered all the statements and the evidence," said Campbell County Chief Deputy Charles Scott.
Scott said the 2:11 p.m. shooting occurred after school administrators were tipped that Bartley had a handgun. The boy was removed from his class and taken to the office area away from other students.
"When they confronted him, I guess he just panicked," Scott said.
Scott described Bartley's gun as a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol that could fit in the palm of an adult's hand.
McClellan said Bartley was disarmed in the office area before he could endanger other students.
"The gun was wrested away from this individual by another teacher," the sheriff said.
Sometime during the struggle, McClellan said, a bullet grazed Bartley's right hand, causing a bleeding wound. The teen was treated at the same hospital in LaFollette where Bruce died.
"He didn't show any remorse to me," the sheriff said. "He was pretty calm."
McClellan said he sat with Bruce as the man in his late 40s died at the hospital. McClellan said he spoke with Seale before the principal was removed from the school.
"I talked to Mr. Seale in the office," he said. "He was in quite a bit of pain."
Seale, in his early 50s, is in his second year as principal of the high school. Prior to that, Seale was principal of the LaFollette Middle School. Seale's son is a student at the high school.
Pierce is also in his early 50s and served as athletic director for the high school.
The three victims were married and had children. Their families asked the media to leave them alone Tuesday night.
The sheriff said he expected investigators to search Bartley's residence outside LaFollette sometime Tuesday night. Bartley's father, Kenny Bartley, owns Kenny's Pioneer, a convenience store in LaFollette, the sheriff said.
The suspect's father and an attorney met briefly with the boy Tuesday evening, according to McClellan.
Scott said K-9 dogs from law enforcement agencies across the area were called in to search the high school after the 1,400 students evacuated.
"After we've cleared the building, we'll have K-9s go through and clear the school of any weapons or narcotics," Scott said.
McClellan said Tuesday night he still didn't "know what all happened during the shooting" because his investigators were still piecing together evidence.
Agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are assisting in the investigation and have set up a mobile crime lab at the high school to help process evidence, authorities said.
The school does not have metal detectors but does have a security officer employed by the board of education, McClellan said.
Jim Henegar, who is friends with all three men, said his wife, Millie, was taking the incident personally because it happened on her watch. She works as a security guard and a bus driver for the school.
"She probably thinks she let them down today," he said.
School officials said the building is equipped with surveillance cameras. Authorities, however, have not reviewed the recordings to determine if the cameras captured anything to aid the probe or shed light on how the shooting occurred.
One of the lead investigators on the case, the sheriff said, is his daughter, Amy Hamac. Pierce had been Hamac's teacher at Campbell County Comprehensive High School, and her daughter is a student at the school.
"I just told her to stay focused and to keep the emotional stuff out of it," McClellan said.
Those close relationships are indicative of how deeply the community will feel the pain from the shooting, residents said.
"It affects the whole community because the parents know the teachers and now the teachers know our kids," said Ida Monday, who graduated in 1979 from the high school.
School officials opted to cancel classes for the rest of the week at Campbell County Comprehensive High School, said Director of Schools Judy Blevins.
Board of Education Chairwoman Mary Michelle Gillum said that by closing the high school for three days, administrators will have more time to gather a team of grief counselors to greet students next week.
McClellan praised the way school officials handled the situation after the shooting erupted.
"I applaud the school's actions today," the sheriff said.
When the shooting ended, a school administrator ordered the school locked down, which prohibited students from leaving their classes.
"That was the proper and professional thing to do, lock the school down," McClellan said.
Students said Seale, probably after being shot, came on the school intercom and ordered the lockdown.
"Knowing him, he probably did," McClellan said. "He is a tough fellow and a great individual. That sounds like him. Whoever did it, he did the right thing."
He ordered the 1,400-student school to be put on lockdown, said Courtney Ward, 17.
"He was out of breath and you could tell that something was wrong," she said.
Johnna Kitts, 17, who had classes with Bartley, described him as a jokester who craved attention.
"You could see him pulling a prank but not this," she said. "He had just always been the little class clown."
Lonnie Ellison wondered if there wasn't more the school could have done to protect administrators and students, including his 15-year-old daughter Amy.
"They need to get metal detectors and start checking these kids," he said.
Scores of parents swarmed the school after the 2:11 p.m. shooting in an attempt to retrieve their children. Some were crying and others tried to reach their children via cell phones.
There was confusion as authorities directed the release of children from school.
School buses came to pick up students, but they got stuck in traffic. U.S. 25W was clogged with cars trying to enter and leave the school grounds.
"We allowed parents with cars to come in and get their children out faster so we could secure the crime scene," said Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Aaron Evans.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.
Publish A Letter on SitNews Read Letters/Opinions
Submit A Letter to the Editor