AURORA | Police said Sunday night two more teenagers, both 16-year-old boys, were arrested earlier today and face charges of first-degree attempted murder after three students were shot while in the parking lot of an Aurora high school on Friday.
Late Friday, police arrested a 16-year-old boy in connection with the shooting outside of Hinkley High School Friday afternoon.
Police said Sunday that the Aurora Police Department’s Fugitive Team, SWAT team and canine units were part of an effort to find suspects and make arrests.
It was the second school-related shooting in a week in Aurora. On Monday, six students were wounded when someone opened fire in Nome Park, adjacent to Aurora Central High School.
The shootings have prompted a wide range of calls for the community, parents and police to make a concerted effort to stem a wave of shootings from past several months, mostly involving juveniles and young adults.
None of the suspects nor shooting victims have been identified, nor have police released information about what prompted the shootings.
Two of the boys were arrested in Aurora, a third in Parker, police said.
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson told reporters that the three students who were injured are expected to survive their injuries, and at least one received a tourniquet at the scene.”
While injured students weren’t identified, police said two were boys, ages 16 and 17, and the other was a 17-year-old girl.
Authorities began receiving calls of a shooting at the school just after noon on Nov. 15, Agent Matt Longshore, spokesperson for the Aurora Police Department, wrote in a news release. The school, at 1250 S. Chambers Road, was placed on lockdown shortly thereafter.
Detectives later learned that multiple shots were fired as a white pickup truck containing several people drove through the parking lot following a fight during the school lunch hour.
One of the teens from the trio was taken to a nearby hospital from the scene, while the other two drove themselves.
Wilson said that an APS security security officer — not an Aurora police officer — returned fire and may have struck one of the injured children. Aurora’s police chief praised the school district employee’s actions.
APS employs about a dozen armed security officers who are trained through the Community College of Aurora, according to the district’s website. They can detain but not arrest students.
Investigators are currently working to determine which of the injured students could be a possible suspect. Two of the injured juveniles — the 17-year-olds — are Hinkley students, and the third younger student attends APS Avenues on East Second Avenue.
Police said at about 9 p.m. that cars in the parking lot during the shooting could be retrieved.
Police believe multiple shooters fired bullets of various calibers during the encounter, though it’s unclear if any guns were recovered at the scene. No arrests had been made as of about 3:15 p.m. Friday, though two people were being questioned, according to Longshore.
KCNC-TV obtained cellphone video that the TV station said was taken from a car inside the parking lot as shots were being fired. A youth in the vehicle is heard saying, “Oh, no. No, no, no,” while crouching as the shots ring out.
Wilson said that authorities are currently reviewing security camera footage from the school and social media to determine what led to the shooting, though early evidence indicates the lunchtime quarrel precipitated the gunfire. She said authorities have seized the white pickup truck that appeared to have been involved in the encounter.
All Hinkley students were released from the school as of about 3 p.m., Wilson said.
Officials with Aurora Public Schools canceled all after school activities at Hinkley, including athletics, scheduled for Friday afternoon.
Wilson implored parents to endeavor to keep guns away from local teens.
“I need the parents to get involved,” Wilson said. “I need you checking phones, I need you checking rooms, I need you checking cars, and make sure that they’re taking these guns away from these kids.”
Other area officials lamented the string of recent violence.
“I feel devastated,” said Aurora NAACP President Omar Montgomery. “I feel disheartened that our youth has to struggle with this kind of violence.”
He said it’s fundamentally wrong that kids have to “go to algebra classes and worry about whether they have to duck from a bullet when all they should be worrying about is their schoolwork.”
John Kellner, district attorney for the bulk of Aurora, echoed.
“This is the second shooting in Aurora this week that has impacted students’ ability to feel safe at school,” he said in a statement. “No child or teenager should be fearful just going to class – a normal activity we can all relate to. Our community rightly is demanding an end to this violence, and we will stand with them in using every tool we have to prosecute aggressively anyone connected to these attacks on students.”
Montgomery said that Aurora and the metro area don’t have to wait more than a few minutes to begin making a real difference in ebbing the wave of shootings and violence among local teenagers.
“We don’t have to wait for the city or police to create curfews,” Montgomery said. “Before parents go to bed, they need to know where their kids are…who their friends are and who they’re hanging out with. They need to check their kids’ backpacks and rooms. They need to find out if their kids really went to school.”
Montgomery said the community should step up and fund centers and programs that offer area kids and families a better alternative than falling into the life of violence and gangs.
“You’ve heard of food deserts? Well we have a youth services desert here,” Montgomery said. While good work is being done to help keep kids from falling into violent lifestyles, the community needs “louder voices” and more of them. “We need to get our kids at the table as well to be a part of the decision making.”
Mayor Mike Coffman was en route to a “Peaceful March” to address recent gun violence at nearby Kenton Elementary School when he learned of the shooting.
“This back-to-back escalation of violence must end,” Coffman said in a statement. “The focus after these incidents will always be for law enforcement to apprehend the shooters and to have a presence, strategically positioned, to try to deter more violence. Our city has invested a lot in youth violence prevention programs but going forward, I believe that we will need a broader approach that involves all of the stake holders to include state and local leaders, law enforcement, educators, faith leaders, and yes, parents.”
Democratic State Sen. Rhonda Fields said she plans to hold a community forum to discuss youth violence at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22 in the Dayton Street Opportunity Center at 1445 Dayton St.
“Parents and others should be a part of ensuring schools are safe,” she said. “It can’t just be all up to a school resource officer, or a school principal, or the dean of students. Our parents and faith leaders and others need to play greater roles to make sure our kids have a sense of dealing with conflict without picking up a gun.”
Fields, who lives within walking distance of Hinkley, said she watched panicked residents pass by her home throughout the afternoon.
“I will never forget the terror and the trauma that I saw on these young people’s faces,” she said. ” … Kids and parents were traumatized today.”
Other area elected leaders agreed.
“What is there left to say?” said Aurora Democratic state Sen. Janet Buckner. “But we have to act. We can’t give up.”
After years of listening and working as a lawmaker to find solutions, Buckner said that without consensus among warring political factions, lawmakers can’t do much of anything. “I don’t know that we can legislate our way of this right now.”
Buckner said there is no single problem nor solution.
“It’s easy access to guns. It’s poverty. It’s health equity. It’s not having money for rent or gas. It’s overwhelmed families exhausted by the pandemic and fighting every day to keep from losing ground. It’s the (Kyle Rittenhouse) verdict that is so dejecting.”
She thinks that unless the entire community, across the metro area, focuses on the problem and comes together to create solutions, little will change.
This has to be a priority,” Buckner said. “It’s an epidemic.”
During a state COVID-19 update that started moments after news of the shooting broke, Gov. Jared Polis mentioned the shooting and said the victims are in his thoughts and prayers. He added that “as a state we need to redouble our efforts to reduce youth violence and improve public safety.”
On Monday, six teenage students were shot while in a park beside Aurora Central High School, where all of those students attended.
“This week’s violence near our schools is heartbreaking, and I cannot begin to imagine the pain and anguish experienced by the victims and their families,” Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said in a statement. “In addition, teachers and students at our schools are impacted by this outbreak of violence. Our community is still reeling from the shooting of six teenagers on Monday, and we find ourselves facing yet another senseless act of violence. It is the responsibility of all community members and stakeholders to invest in the safety of our youth. We must commit our time and resources to the city’s Youth Violence Prevention Program and our public safety partners to identify ways for increased involvement and better solutions. We will work collaboratively with our community partners to identify solutions and rally the support of our residents.”
Wilson said it’s currently unclear whether the shooting at Hinkley Friday is connected to the Central High incident earlier in the week.
“It’s a possibility,” she said.
Wilson said that officers have responded to additional recent threats reported at Rangeview and Gateway High Schools in the city.
All Aurora Public Schools are on Thanksgiving break as of Friday afternoon.
In a Friday evening email to district families, Superintendent Rico Munn expressed dismay over the week’s two shootings.
“A year ago, I stood in the Hinkley High School parking lot helping our Nutrition Services team hand out Thanksgiving meals to our community,” he said. “Today, that same parking lot was the scene of yet another act of gun violence in our community, traumatizing our children and staff.”
He asked parents to check in with their children over the break, linking to an online guide to talking with kids about violence.
“After we take this break for the Thanksgiving holiday, please know that we will welcome our students back with open arms,” he said. “We will provide additional security and mental health supports at schools as needed and we will continue to prioritize student safety and wellbeing.”
Aurora police say they’ve identified and possibly located one of two cars believed to have been involved in the drive-by shooting at Nome Park.
Investigators believe a black Chrysler 300 and a black Chevrolet Tahoe played a part in the shooting at at about 12:45 p.m. Nov. 15. Detectives believe multiple shooters on foot and in cars used multiple different kinds of guns to target the group of Central High students between the ages of 14 and 17.
“Detectives have located the black Tahoe and are following up on leads associated with the occupants,” police said Wednesday in a tweet. “The black Chrysler 300 is still outstanding.”
Police on Tuesday identified the five initial people who were shot as follows: a 14-year-old boy, a 15-year-old girl, a 16-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy. Another 18-year-old male drove himself to the hospital later in the afternoon.
Wilson during a press conference earlier this week told reporters that it appears certain all the shooting victims from Monday will survive, but two were seriously injured and face a “long haul” to recovery. She reiterated pleas for information from people who know what happened and who was involved.
Authorities on Tuesday also increased the reward for information related to the shooting earlier this week, chipping in another $5,000 from the city’s reward fund. Now tipsters who provide police with information related to the pictured vehicles, the drivers or the owners can receive up to $7,000.
The Metro Denver Crime Stoppers are contributing their standard allotment of $2,000 to the overall pot. Informants who call the Denver branch of Crimestoppers U.S.A. can remain anonymous by calling 720-913-7867.
Residents can call the same line to report information related to the Hinkley shooting.
“People know what happened here,” Wilson said. “We need to talk to our kids. These beefs cannot continue.”
Citywide, aggravated assaults — which is how non-fatal shootings are often defined in statistics — were up about 20% in the first 10 months of the year when compared to the same time in 2020, police data show. There were 2,243 aggravated assault victims reported in the city through Oct. 24, the most recent complete data available.
Murders are roughly flat in the city when comparing 2019 to 2020, according to recent police statistics and reporting, with an estimated 34 such crimes reported in the city so far this year.
Across Aurora, major crimes — defined as murder, rape, assault and various forms of theft — are up about 19% in 2021.