By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) – A 17-year-old Colorado high school senior shot in the head by a heavily-armed classmate who stormed Arapahoe High School in suburban Denver remained in critical condition on Sunday, the county sheriff said.
Claire Davis was the only person wounded on Friday by 18-year-old gunman Karl Pierson, who police believe was bent on exacting revenge against a school debate coach who disciplined him earlier in the school year.
“Her condition has not changed,” Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson told Reuters. “She is still critical.”
Armed with a pump-action shotgun and a bandolier of ammunition, a machete and three Molotov cocktails, police said Karl Pierson stormed the school on Friday looking for a teacher local media have identified as school librarian and debate team sponsor Tracy Murphy.
Robinson said although the gunman was hunting for the teacher, his intent was to create carnage at the 2,000-student school in the Denver suburb of Centennial.
The rampage took place just 8 miles from the nearby scene of one of the deadliest school massacres in U.S. history, Columbine High School, where two students gunned down 13 classmates and staff before killing themselves in 1999.
At Arapahoe High School, the suspected gunman committed suicide when an armed deputy stationed at the school cornered him in the library. The event lasted 80 seconds from the time Pierson entered the school, firing the shotgun randomly and igniting one of the explosives, until he ended his life.
Davis was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” when Pierson shot her as she sat with a friend outside the library, Robinson said. Her family has asked for privacy.
“Our beautiful daughter Claire Davis has severe head trauma as a result of a gunshot,” Robinson said in a statement read on the family’s behalf at a Saturday news conference. “She needs your continued prayers.”
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who this year pushed through tougher firearms laws in the wake of recent mass shootings, told the CBS program Face the Nation that he had visited with Davis and her family, and that she was in a coma.
Hundreds gathered Saturday night for a candlelight prayer vigil at a park near the school for the popular senior, who is a skilled equestrian.
“She is a real happy person with lots of friends,” said Arapahoe senior Chris Davis, no relation, whose locker is next to Claire’s. “There were always a bunch of people around her.”
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Chris Reese)