AURORA | At least six teenagers were injured in a drive-by shooting at Aurora’s Nome Park Monday afternoon, prompting nearby Aurora Central High School to be placed on a secure perimeter for hours.
Authorities reported at about 1 p.m. Nov. 15 that five people between the ages of 14 and 17 were taken to a local hospital following the shooting. A sixth person, an 18-year-old male, drove themself to the hospital with minor injuries later in the afternoon.
Police later identified the five initial people who had 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.
All of the teens who were shot remained hospitalized as of Monday evening.
Police Chief Vanessa Wilson told reporters that multiple shooters using multiple different kinds of guns targeted the group, who were all students at nearby Central High School. She said some shots were believed to have been fired from a vehicle, while other shooters were on foot.
Wilson lauded the actions of a school resource officer who quickly responded to the scene.
“They saved a life today,” Wilson said.
First responders applied tourniquets to at least two of the children who were shot, “potentially saving their lives,” according to Agent Matt Longshore, spokesperson for the Aurora Police Department.
The shooting did not occur inside the north Aurora high school, but at a nearby park near the intersection of East 12th Avenue and Nome Street.
Three patients from the shooting were taken to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora. They were in stable condition and have all been reunited with their families, spokesperson Caitlin Jenney said.
Wilson said she’s relieved the students are expected to survive but said gun violence is a crisis.
“When I got the call, my heart dropped,” Wilson said. “Enough is enough. We need to come together as a community.”
Police are asking for neighbors and any other bystanders to share any videos or photos from phones or house surveillance systems that might help detectives identify suspects who still haven’t been apprehended.
Student Aariah McClain, 15, said she heard gunfire as she was walking near the school’s football field during lunch. She heard four shots at first, so she started walking toward the school. Then she said she heard “a whole lot more” after that, she said.
“I was shocked,” she said of the shooting, as she waited outside the school with her father, Harold McClain, for her 14-year-old sister to be dismissed.
The school was put on a “secure perimeter” because of the shooting, police said. That typically means no one is allowed in or out of a school but students and staff are able to move freely within the building.
Evette Mitchell, 47, rushed to the school to get her son, Trevell, 15. He was in gym class when he heard the gunshots, and the teacher escorted them to the smaller gym.
Mitchell said she is frustrated because another shooting involving three teens happened near the school on a recent weekend. Mitchell added parents get blamed for youth violence, but there are no affordable activities offered for students in the area.
“Everything costs. We’re all low-income families so it’s hard for us to find something for these kids to do,” said Mitchell, who said her son was going to be in online classes for the rest of the week because of the shooting.
According to U.S. News and World Report’s high school rankings, 67% of the school’s approximately 2,000 students are considered economically disadvantaged, qualifying for free or reduced lunch.
Michelle Marin, who lives across the street from the school, said she walks her dog at the park almost every morning and sees students hanging out there all the time, “but you never think something like that’s going to happen.”
“We have seen some lockdowns but nothing with the caution tape or anything like that,” Marin said.
The shooting comes after an 18-year-old died after being shot about 5 miles away on Sunday night.
A shooting was also reported in the parking lot of a mall in Aurora on Friday, but police only found several shell casings when they arrived.
“We need help from the community,” Wilson said of the ongoing investigation.
City Manager Jim Twombly said he was shocked by the shooting.
“Today’s incident is deeply troubling,” Twombly said in a statement. “Violence involving teenagers and young adults is distressing and is sadly a public health problem in communities across the nation. The safety of young people in our community is a priority and that is why we have joined with other metro communities in working collaboratively to address youth violence as a public health crisis.”
Twombly said that Aurora earlier in the year began a new program meant to stem such shootings, Youth Violence Prevention Program.
City officials say the program focuses on the entire community of services targeting issues that create an atmosphere conducive to violence, such as public health, violence prevention and intervention. Aurora also joined with Denver last year in a collaborative effort to address violence as a regional issue.
“Addressing youth violence is complex,” Twombly said. “We believe these efforts combined with robust, ongoing community input will help reduce the impact of youth violence across the region.”
Longshore said police expect to increase patrols around Nome Park as the investigation continues in the coming days.
In an email to district families, APS superintendent Rico Munn and school board president Kyla Armstrong-Romero said that the district is “heartbroken” by the shooting, and thanked school resource officers and security officers for providing emergency care for the victims.
The district will have additional mental health professionals at Aurora Central High School on hand for students and staff to meet with, and there will be an increased security presence at and around the school, the email said.
“We are disgusted by this and other senseless acts of violence against our children who are the future of our community,” the email said. “We ask for your continued support of the Aurora Central community and we ask each of you to be a proactive part of keeping all of our children safe.”
The state’s state and congressional leaders echoed the distress over the shootings.
“Our kids have grown up in the shadow of gun violence, and we have a moral obligation to stop this from happening,” Sen. Michael Bennet said in a tweet.
Gov. Jared Polis extended state support to Aurora police and city officials as the investigation gets underway.
“I am so saddened by the violence that took place in Aurora today,” Polis said in a statement. “Our children need to feel safe in parks, in our schools and parents need peace of mind that their students are safe in our neighborhoods.”
MORE COLORADO COMMENT
State Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora: “I am devastated to learn of today’s shooting in Aurora that led to the hospitalization of six young people in our community. As a parent who lost her son to gun violence, I understand the shock and horror these parents are experiencing. No mother or father should be afraid to let their son or daughter go play at the park, attend school or go to the movie theater, yet they are forced to live in fear as gun violence continues to wreak havoc on our communities. We cannot turn a blind eye to gun violence and we cannot let more kids become a statistic. These are precious lives that must be cared for and protected. As more details unfold, I am keeping the teens and their loved ones in my thoughts and want to extend my sincerest gratitude to the first responders who tended to the scene.”
Mayor Mike Coffman: A shooting today in a park by Aurora Central High School has left six young people hospitalized. My prayers are with the injured and their families. As the facts surrounding this incident become known, I look forward to hearing from our Chief of Police and from our District Attorney about what actions will be taken to apprehend and prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, those responsible for this incident. The most important function of government is the protection of its people and I strongly believe that public safety must always be the top priority for this city.
Statement from State Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora — “Today, we were alerted to the news that six students from Aurora Central High School were injured in yet another tragic act of gun violence. My heart breaks for them and their families, and I pray for their full and speedy recovery. No parent should ever have to meet their child at the hospital or pick up their student from school because of gun violence. I am grateful to the first responders, teachers and school administrators who responded to the shooting. Too many people are dying by firearms in our country. It is a public health crisis, and we should treat it with the seriousness that demands. I know our community will come together and help each other heal the pain that we all feel today.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.