MARTINSVILLE, Ind. – Dustin Tatum was leaving his middle school cafeteria Friday when he heard a loud bang, then chaos ensued as a teacher rushed him and several fellow students into a classroom, locked the door, turned off the lights and ordered everyone to hit the floor.
Only later did Tatum learn his close friend, a 15-year-old classmate, had been shot in the stomach and that police were identifying the alleged shooter as a former student expelled from the central Indiana school just days earlier.
“It was a nightmare hearing my friend just got shot and he’s being lifelined to the hospital,” said Tatum, 14.
The lone victim, Chance Jackson, was listed in critical but stable condition Friday evening at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he was taken by helicopter.
The 15-year-old former student suspected in the attack was arrested miles away on the south side of Martinsville about an hour after the shooting, which unfolded before 7 a.m. Friday, just as classes were about to begin, State Police Sgt. Curt Durnil said.
The teen was being questioned at the county jail as Morgan County prosecutors reviewed possible charges against him.
“We have no motive at all at this point. We’re talking to witnesses and school officials to get to the bottom of it,” Durnil said.
Officers found a handgun believed used in the shooting in a field near the school about 30 miles south of Indianapolis.
Durnil said the teen in custody had been suspended then expelled from the school this week and was not supposed to be on campus. He said he did not know why the student was expelled, and school officials would not comment.
But Tatum and other classmates told the Associated Press that Jackson and the shooting suspect had a volatile relationship and had argued.
Tobi Berkholz, whose son grew up with the suspect, said she never heard the suspect argue.
“He would do anything he could. It’s like he just wanted to fit in. He just wanted to be liked,” she said.