Named: Authorities in New Mexico named William Atchinson, 21, as the gunman who killed two students, then himself at Aztec High School on Thursday
Authorities in New Mexico this morning identified 21-year-old William Atchinson as the shooter who killed two teens and then himself at a high school on Thursday as part of a carefully planned attack, less than a year after he had been investigated and cleared by the FBI.
During a press conference on Friday, San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christensen said Atchinson was able to slip into Aztec High School at the start of the school day on Thursday by disguising himself as a student.
‘It was a single coward shooter,’ the sheriff said. ‘This was a planned event.’
According to officials, Atchinson carried out the massacre with a Glock handgun he had purchased in November, and he left behind writings indicating that he had been planning the shooting for some time.
Christensen told reporters his investigators have recovered a thumb drive with a manifesto penned by the 21-year-old, in which he laid out his deadly plan.
The message, written at 6.51am Thursday, opened with the words: ‘if things go according to plan, today would be when I die.
‘I’d go somewhere, gear up, then hold a class hostage and go apes**t, then blow my brains out.’
A subsequent search of a wastepaper basket in Atchinson’s room at his parents’ home turned up a handwritten ‘to-do’ list for the morning of the shooting, in which the gunman wrote reminders for himself to ‘pack up’; ‘prep’; ‘walk’ and ‘die.’
San Juan County Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as Casey Jordan-Marquez (right) and Francisco Fernandez (left)
New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas told reporters Atchinson made his way inside the school building at 8.04am, armed with a 9mm Glock pistol and carrying a backpack with multiple magazines.
He went to a second-floor bathroom, where victim Francisco Fernandez came face to face with Athcinson and was fatally shot.
Atchinson then emerged into the hallway, where he encounter his second victim, Casey Jordan-Marquez, 17, and shot her dead as well.
The 21-year-old then proceeded to walk up and down the hallway, firing indiscriminately into classrooms.
At one point, he entered a computer lab, but an 74-year-old substitute had managed to shelter in place with 16 students in a storage room, which they barricaded with a couch.
Having failed to shoot anyone inside that room, Atchinson then went back out into the hallways and turned the gun on himself.
Atchinson lived in Aztec with his parents, and at one time was a student at the local high school, but did not graduate.
In March 2016, the FBI launched an investigation after being tipped off about some comments Atchinson had written on an online gaming forum, in which he reportedly referenced mass shootings.
According to FBI Special Agent Terry Wade, agents came by the family’s home and ‘extensively’ interviewed the suspect and his parents. Atchinson told the feds that he enjoyed ‘trolling’ online but said he had no plans to commit violence.
‘It was not a specific threat, it was not about Aztec, in particular,’ Wade noted.
The FBI later closed the investigation, which entailed a review of the suspect’s computer files and online presence, without bringing any charges agaisnt Atchinson because no crime had been committed and there was no justification to continue looking into his activities, said Wade.
Well-wishers have donated over $6,000 to the family of Jordan-Marquez through crowdfunding sites
Jordan-Marquez was the captain of the cheerleading team at Aztec High School
‘Casey was tragically killed today in a shooting at Aztec High School. She was young, vibrant and loved by all,’ a friend wrote on the YouCaring crowdfunding site
Well-wishers have donated over $6,000 to the family of Jordan-Marquez through crowdfunding sites.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up for Fernandez.
Jordan-Marquez was a cheerleader at Aztec High School, while Fernandez played for the football team, according to KOB 4-TV.
‘We were always there for each other no matter what was happening on a personal level or something that happened outside of school,’ said Deja Greenleaf, an Aztec graduate who was teammates with Fernandez.
‘We are always there.’
‘Nothing seems real,’ Greenleaf said.
‘You just want to believe everything is OK and you move through the stages of grief.’
Friends were sharing their condolences on Marquez’s Facebook page, which displayed photos of the teen in her cheerleading outfit.
Fernandez’s friends shared photos on his page and wore T-shirts that memorialized him during a candlelight vigil late Thursday.
Fernandez’s friends shared photos on his page and wore T-shirts that memorialized him during a candlelight vigil late Thursday
‘He was in eleventh grade and had a bright future ahead of him,’ a friend wrote on a GoFundMe page
The governor described the day as difficult and called the shooting a heinous and horrific act. She called for New Mexicans to unite and support the small community of Aztec
Hundreds of friends and family members braved frigid temperatures to gather at a park in the community of Aztec to honor the two students.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says several acts of bravery helped save lives during a deadly shooting at a small-town high school.
‘There were several acts of bravery by staff members, teachers and students that were amazing… that actually saved lives,’ Governor Martinez said.
The governor described the day as difficult and called the shooting a heinous and horrific act. She called for New Mexicans to unite and support the small community of Aztec.
Authorities haven’t provided any details about what led to the shooting or how it unfolded.
‘I was in the classroom and we heard…We heard shots and it wasn’t very close and then it stopped for a little bit,’ said student Briley Dills.
‘Then we heard shots again and it was really close. And we were sitting in a corner up against a wall and I could like feel it vibrating… and then it stopped.’
Dills said that when it was finally safe to leave the room, she saw someone lying dead on the ground right outside her classroom.
Students are led out of Aztec High School in New Mexico with their hands behind their heads after a shooting Thursday that claimed three lives
At least 15 people were reportedly injured in the school shooting this morning
Aztec High School is located in the Four Corners region and is near the Navajo Nation
A student at Aztec High told the station KOAT he huddled in a locked classroom as the shooter opened fire and killed two classmates.
Aztec High School sophomore Garrett Parker recounted how he was upstairs in history class when he heard what he initially thought was students banging on lockers.
As the noise got louder and closer, school officials warned over the intercom system that it wasn’t a drill.
Parker said he’s thankful his teacher always locks the classroom door. He and other students moved to a corner of the room out of sight of the door and hid.
The school, which has about 900 students, is in the Four Corners region and is near the Navajo Nation.
According to a statement from the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, 15 other people were injured in the shooting, which was first reported at around 8.30am local time.
But the New Mexico State Police disputed the information about the additional victims, writing in a tweet: ‘No other injuries reported.’
‘It’s tragic when our children are harmed in violent ways especially on school campuses. We express our condolences to those families who have been harmed,’ President Russell Begaye said.
‘Our prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy and everyone throughout San Juan County. We are asking for prayers for these families.’
The New Mexico State Police confirmed in a tweet that the shooter was dead
Buses begin to move students and faculty from Aztec High School after the deadly shooting
Police escort buses moving students and faculty from Aztec High School Thursday
Authorities say the school was placed on lockdown and evacuated. Other schools in the area were also locked down.
Officers who responded to the scene after reports of a shooting had cleared all the buildings at Aztec High.
The sheriff’s office announced on Facebook that school buses will be loading students and heading to McGee Park in Farmington, where parents will be able to pick up their children.
State and federal authorities are investigating what led to the shooting and did not immediately release any details about the circumstances.
Aztec is a rural community of 6,500 people in the heart of northwestern New Mexico’s oil and gas country and near the Navajo Nation. Its main street is lined by old brick buildings that date back more than a century.