Veteran Lithia Springs High teacher shoots self at school; classes canceled

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Veteran Lithia Springs High teacher shoots self at school; classes canceled

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There is heavy traffic at Lithia Springs High School after a teacher shot himself on campus, school officials said. Classes have been canceled. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
  • Story Highlights
  • The teacher, who has been with Douglas County for 18 years, shot himself in his classroom.
  • He made his way to another part of the school. A teacher found him.
  • He was flown to a local hospital. He is stable.
  • No students saw the shooting. And no students were injured.

Early Thursday morning, a veteran Lithia Springs High School teacher walked to his classroom, pulled out a handgun and shot himself, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said.

Few details have been released.

However, officials said the teacher is stable, students are safe and the gun the teacher used has been secured. No one witnessed the shooting, which occurred before the start of the school day.

Classes were canceled and frantic parents scrambled to pick up their children from the school.

Here’s what we know so far:

12:16 p.m.: In response to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter’s question about possible charges, the sheriff’s office would only say the agency’s criminal investigation is ongoing.

11:56 a.m.: Cleanup efforts are underway at the school, and classes will resume Friday, Douglas sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said. 

About 1,100 students have been picked up from the school. Less than a handful of students remain on the campus. 

11:55 a.m.: A handgun has been recovered and is secured, Douglas sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said. "Obviously we do not allow teachers to carry handguns on our property," he said. However, there is no way of checking teachers to make sure they don't have weapons on them, he said.

11:50 a.m.: The teacher who shot himself in his classroom at Lithia Springs High School made his way out to other parts of the school after the shooting, Douglas sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said during a second press conference. And a fellow staff member found him. She then directed another staff member to call 911.

Officials insist students did not witness the shooting.


11:38 a.m.: The teacher who shot himself in his classroom at Lithia Springs High School in Douglas County is at an undisclosed hospital, officials said. He is stable.

10:18 a.m.: The teacher’s name, grade level, subject of expertise and condition were not released. When he left the school, he was still alive, officials said.

10:18 a.m.: Sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said he does not recall a similar incident at a school in Douglas County. “Not that I know of, and I’ve been here 18 years,” he said.

10:17 a.m.: School starts about 8:40 a.m., officials said. Deputies are usually at the school by 7:30 each weekday, when students begin getting dropped off, Douglas sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said. The shooting occurred about 7:15 a.m., right before “our normal start of the day business,” he said.

Classes were canceled Thursday at Lithia Springs High School after a veteran teacher shot himself inside his classroom. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

10:16 a.m.: Douglas County superintendent Trent North solicited the community’s prayers. 

"You have family,” he said. “When one of your family is hurting, you hurt as well.” He said the school community is "suffering because our family member is in need.” 

"Teachers are part of our family," North said.

10:14 a.m.: Douglas County superintendent Trent North said safety was the school’s first priority.

“The most important thing we do as a school system is to keep our staff and students safe," North said. 

10:13 a.m.: Community members have offered food, water and support. "Our community treats us very well," Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said.

10:13 a.m.: The teacher shot himself with a handgun, Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said.

10:12 a.m.: There were several hundred students who had made their way to the campus, Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said. There were very few people inside at the time of the shooting. Officials said they were able to quickly redirect those students as well as faculty and staff as they showed up at the school. “We only believe that two people, initially, were involved in this: himself and the other teacher who called for his aid,” Hambrick said.

10:12 a.m.: A reporter asked, “You’re not saying whether this is an accident?” Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick’s reply? “No.” 

10:12 a.m.: The injured teacher was able to get in touch with another teacher, who called 911, Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said. The teacher was flown from the school to a hospital shortly thereafter. School resource officers responded to the school to help secure the school. 

10:11 a.m.: About 7:15 a.m., a male teacher who has been employed with the system for about 18 years came onto the campus and went to his classroom, where he did suffer a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said. “There were no students that were ever in jeopardy,” he said. “There were no students who ever saw this. This was something that was a very isolated incident.”

10:11 a.m.: “We will not hold school today at Lithia Springs High School and we are working on details for the safe dismissal of our students,” Douglas County superintendent Trent North said. 

10:10 a.m.: “We know there were no students or staff present when this incident took place,” Douglas County superintendent Trent North said. “The campus has been secured and all students are being kept safely away from the scene.”

10:10 a.m.: The shooting occurred inside the teacher’s classroom at Lithia Springs High School, Douglas County superintendent Trent North said.

10:05 a.m.: A press conference has started to discuss this morning’s shooting at Lithia Springs High School.

Douglas County Sheriff Sgt. J. Hambrick updates media on teachers self inflicted gunshot. Video by John Spink/AJC

10 a.m.: Atlanta Journal-Constitution multimedia journalist John Spink is live on the scene. He is providing real-time updates on Facebook Live.

9:47 a.m.: Buses are arriving to pick students up at Lithia Springs High School. 


9:44 a.m.: Parents at the school walk to pick up their children, Channel 2 Action News reported.


UPDATE [9:15 a.m.]: Lithia Springs High School posted this message on its website:

A Lithia Springs High School teacher suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 7:15 a.m. on August 17, 2017, while alone in the office off of his classroom. No students were in the building at the time. The campus has been secured and students are in the gym. Students may be picked up by a parent or guardian and buses will be available to take bus riders home. There will be no classes at Lithia Springs High School today.

ORIGINAL STORY:

A Lithia Springs High School employee has been flown to the hospital after a “gun-related injury” at the school, a spokesman with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said.

“All I can confirm is that there was a gun-related injury that took place on the campus this morning involving an employee,” Sgt. Jesse Hambrick told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

No students were hurt in the incident, he said.

Students were seen being moved to the school’s gym, according to the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center

Parents can pick up their children there.

“That is the reunification site,” Hambrick said. “We’re letting them go for the day. Grief counselors are on scene.”

While social media is lighting up with reports that a teacher was shot or committed suicide, Hambrick would not confirm those accounts. 


A press conference has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. 

A staff writer and photographer with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are headed to the school in the 2500 block of East County Line Road.

—Please return to AJC.com for updates.

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