A body found in the Colorado woods near an abandoned car was that of a 17-year-old student accused of wounding two workers in a shooting at his Denver school, a coroner’s office said.
Park County sheriff Tom McGraw said the body was discovered on Wednesday not far from the teenager’s car in a remote mountain area about 50 miles south-west of Denver, near the small town of Bailey.
People in the town were ordered to shelter in place while officers from a number of agencies including the FBI combed the forest.
Earlier in the day, Denver police identified the suspect as Austin Lyle.
The Park County coroner’s office confirmed in a Facebook post the body was Lyle’s.
A cause of death was not released, pending the completion of tests.
The shooting happened at East High School in Denver, not far from the city centre, while two administrators searched Lyle for weapons, a daily requirement because of the boy’s behavioural issues, authorities said.
Lyle fled after the shooting.
It happened at a school shaken by frequent lockdowns and violence, including the recent killing of a classmate that prompted students to march on the Colorado Capitol earlier this month.
Parents who converged on the 2,500-student campus on Wednesday voiced frustration that officials had not done enough to protect their children.
“I am sick of it,” said Jesse Haase, who planned to talk with her daughter about taking her out of classes for the rest of the school year.
Amid the flurry of criticism over lax security, Denver school officials said after the shooting that they would once again put armed officers into the city’s public secondary schools.
There were no school resource officers on campus at the time of Wednesday’s shooting, said Denver police chief Ron Thomas.
The shooting happened just before 10am in an office area as Lyle was undergoing a search as part of a “safety plan” that required him to be patted down daily, officials said.
The gun used in the shooting was not immediately recovered, Mr Thomas said.
One of the wounded administrators was released from the hospital on Wednesday afternoon and the second was in a serious condition, said Heather Burke, a spokeswoman for Denver Health hospital.
Hundreds of students on March 3 skipped class and marched in support of stricter gun laws after the death of Luis Garcia, 16, who was shot while sitting in a car near the school.
In June 2020, amid a summer of protests over racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd, Denver Public Schools became one of the districts around the US that decided to phase out its use of police officers in school buildings.
That push was fuelled by criticism that school resource officers disproportionately arrested black students, sweeping them into the criminal justice system.
After Wednesday’s shooting, two armed officers will be posted at East High School until the end of the school year, and other city secondary schools will each get an officer, said Denver Public Schools superintendent Alex Marrero.
In a letter to the city’s board of education on Wednesday, Mr Marrero said his decision violated district’s policies but he “can no longer stand on the sidelines”.
“I am the leader of this district who is charged with keeping our scholars and staff safe every day,” he wrote.
The school board said it supported the decision.
Gun violence at schools has become increasingly common in the US, with more than 1,300 shooting incidents recorded between 2000 and June 2022, according to government researchers.
Those shootings killed 377 people and hurt 1,025, according to a database maintained by the researchers.
Students from East High School were scheduled to give evidence on Wednesday afternoon before the Colorado Legislature on gun safety Bills.
“This is the reality of being young in America: sitting through a shooting and waiting for information just hours before you’re scheduled to testify in support of gun safety bills,” said Gracie Taub, a 16-year-old East High School sophomore and volunteer with Students Demand Action in Colorado.
Lyle transferred to East High School after being disciplined and removed from a school in nearby Aurora in the last academic year because of unspecified violations of school policies, said Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman Lauren Snell.
Mr Marrero said safety plans for students are enacted in response to “past educational and also behavioural experiences”, adding that it is a common practice throughout Colorado’s public schools.
Officials did not give further details on why Lyle was searched daily.
But daily pat-downs are rare, said Franci Crepeau-Hobson, a University of Colorado Denver professor specialising in school violence prevention.
“Clearly they were concerned,” said Ms Crepeau-Hobson.
“I can’t imagine they’d do that if there wasn’t a history of the kid carrying a weapon.”
Safety plans often follow threatening or suicidal behaviour from a student, said Christine Harms with the Colorado School Safety Resource Centre.
In response to the shooting, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeated President Joe Biden’s calls for stricter gun laws, including bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for Congress to “do something” on gun control.
Wednesday was also the second anniversary of 10 people being shot and killed at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.
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