A teenager stabbed his mother to death, then went to school Wednesday with a rifle under his trench coat and opened fire, killing his former girlfriend and another student and wounding seven others, police said.
Luke Woodham, 16, was distraught over a breakup with his girlfriend, Police Chief Bill Slade said, choking back tears as he talked about the rampage in this town of 22,000 people just outside Jackson.
“He gave us a statement, and his manifesto was that he felt he had been wronged,” the chief said.
As Woodham tried to drive away in his dead mother’s car, an assistant principal rammed his car into Woodham’s to stop him. Woodham was arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault.
The shootings at Pearl High School began about 8:10 a.m. as buses arrived.
Woodham, a sophomore, entered the large commons area just inside the front door of the school and immediately walked up to his former girlfriend, witnesses said. Police said she was the first to fall, followed by three young men and five young women apparently shot at random.
“He was shooting anybody he could find. He shot at me and hit the staircase,” said Mark Wilkerson, a freshman. “I saw fragments going everywhere.”
Students ran screaming into classrooms and dived for cover.
“People were laying everywhere, bleeding,” said freshman Nathan Henry. “I didn’t hear cries. Everybody looked dead.”
Casey King, a ninth-grader, said Woodham talked to at least one of the wounded. “He apologized, said he was sorry and was not shooting anybody in particular,” King said.
Police later found the body of Mary T. Woodham, 50, at her home, about a mile from the school. She had been stabbed with a kitchen knife, police said.
Police identified the slain students as Christina Menefee, 16, who dated Woodham, and Lydia Kaye Dew, 17.
Three of the wounded students were hospitalized in good condition.
Slade said Mary Woodham, a receptionist who apparently had divorced her husband about a year ago, was believed to have died about three hours before the shootings.
Neighbors said the teenager’s mother usually took him to school, but on Wednesday he got into the car by himself, hitting a tree and crossing a neighbor’s yard as he drove away.
“He always seemed polite, like a nice guy,” said Courtni Thomas, a senior. “It doesn’t seem real that anyone like him would do this.”
The school has no armed guards or weapons searches.
“We had no idea that anything like this would ever take place at any of our schools,” said school board attorney Arthur Jernigan Jr.
Classes were canceled until Monday, but students were told to report on Friday for counseling.
Weeping students gathered in small groups outside the school, where the flag was lowered to half-staff. Others held hands and prayed.
“He keeps hearing the shots go through his head,” Robin Rhodes said of her son, 16-year-old Michael, who was in the commons at the time of the shooting. “I thought my kids were safe here.”
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