Kentucky community grapples with cause of school shooting

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Kentucky community grapples with cause of school shooting
A Kentucky State Police trooper checks with a motorist entering Marshall County High School Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, near Benton, Ky. Two students died and another 18 people were injured in a shooting on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

BENTON, Ky. (AP) — The 15-year-old accused in a school shooting that killed two students and left 18 others bleeding and broken remains cloaked in the secrecy of juvenile court, where his initial hearing on preliminary charges of murder and assault was scheduled on Thursday.

Prosecutors said they won’t publicly identify the teenager until they get permission to try him as an adult. Meanwhile, they’re gathering evidence for a grand jury, hoping to discover why he fired into a crowd of his classmates, all 14 to 18 years old, as they waited for the morning bell inside Marshall County High School on Tuesday.

The aftermath has been overwhelming in a community where practically everyone knows each other — Benton, the nearest town, has about 4,300 residents, and the entire county has just 31,000 people or so.

The county’s elementary and middle schools reopened Thursday in an effort to “get back to normalcy,” after Superintendent Trent Lovett invited parents to come along with their younger children, to help manage their grief.

But the high school — still a crime scene — remained closed and Lovett had no word Wednesday on when classes there might resume.

Two more patients were released from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, spokeswoman Kristin Smart said Thursday. Two male patients are still being treated at the hospital — one who is in critical but stable condition and the other who is in stable condition, Smart said.

Until authorities know why the shooter opened fire, a prosecutor said Wednesday, they can’t yet add charges of attempted murder to the two murder charges he faces, even though more than a dozen other students suffered bullet wounds. Assistant Marshall County Attorney Jason Darnall said the preliminary charges of first-degree assault carry the same penalty.

“Attempted murder is an offense which takes into account motive and specific intent,” Darnall said. Assault simply requires a “serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument.”

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Schreiner reported from Frankfort, Kentucky.