APS: Metal detectors ‘not operable’ on day of school shooting

The metal detectors at Price Middle School were “not operable” Thursday, the day of the school shooting, Atlanta Public Schools said in a statement issued late Friday night.

An investigation determined that there has been limited use of the detectors at the school this year, APS said.

Atlanta police on Friday said the student-on-student shooting Thursday outside of the school may have been gang-related.

“Gunfire erupted after words were exchanged outside of the school between two groups of students who are possibly affiliated with local gangs,” Atlanta Police Chief George Turner told reporters Friday afternoon. “The shooter in one group was targeting the other group of students.”

A 14-year-old boy was shot and taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, then released Thursday evening.

The alleged shooter, a 15-year-old boy, was disarmed by an off-duty Atlanta police officer working part-time at Price as the school resource officer, Turner said.

Investigators are still trying to determine where the teen got the .380-caliber handgun used in the shooting. Police recovered three shell casings from the scene, Turner said.

The suspect was taken into police custody and charged with aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm on school property.

Turner said the Fulton County District Attorney’s office will determine whether to charge the teen as an adult.

Mayor Kasim Reed and Atlanta Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis were both on-hand at police headquarters Friday to speak with the media.

“Chief has already been authorized to provide enhanced security (at Price) because of the fear of retaliation,” Reed said.

And Reed announced an already-in-the-works plan to add all Atlanta school campuses to the more than 700 camera network that feeds into the police department’s video integration center, particularly in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Connecticut in December.

“In no uncertain terms, whatever is required to secure these campuses will be done,” Reed said. “We’re not responding on our heels. We need to have our eyes on campus as soon as we get a call that something like this has happened.”

He acknowledged that for nearly two hours Thursday during the lockdown at Price, it was unclear exactly what was happening inside the school, and that during that time rumors began to spread.

Davis responded to concerns that parents weren’t informed quickly enough about what was happening with their children.

“No matter what the situation is, we will never give them instant information,” he said. “Clearly, communication is important. But it could be devastating to give misinformation.”

Reed said he visited with the victim Friday.

“He is awake and moving around,” he said. “That is most important.”

The name of the suspect was not being released, authorities said, to prevent any acts of retaliation.

Turner said police will work with Atlanta Public Schools to assess metal detectors at all schools, and the department’s gang unit is investigating the shooting.

One of the two metal detectors at Price is working now, APS said late Friday, and students passed through it Friday and were scanned with security wands. The second metal detector is expected to be operable early next week.

APS said it will immediately test all metal detectors at all schools, and it plans to review student entrance and exit procedures.

Students returned to Price Middle School on Friday morning.

Kelvin Fitzgerald, who was dropping his daughter off, said he was surprised by the lack of a police presence just one day after the shooting.

“I thought there would be somebody here; I don’t see nothing. I just saw one down the street,” he said.

He called the shooting “sad, confusing … I still don’t have all the details.”

Parent Cornelia Stone praised the school for its handling of the shooting.

“I think the school handled it really well,” she said, “especially keeping our kids safe and keeping them on lockdown.”

She said not being able to contact her children during the lockdown was “torture, but it really did help in the long run.”

Friday morning, Fred Smith of Conyers stood outside the school beside a 10-foot cross. Smith said the message he was trying to convey was “that God’s still on the throne … that there’s still hope.”

Smith said the area where the shooting occurred was one where “there’s a lot of single moms, fatherless kids … I believe that men need to start rising up again and taking care of their families.”

The shooting occurred just before 2 p.m. outside of the school, Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said.

Davis said it was not clear whether the shooter had to go through the school’s metal detector since the shooting took place outside the building.

The victim’s aunt, Keonia Clark, said her nephew was “doing OK.”

“His mother is being strong for him,” Clark said. “This is a terrible thing for something like this to happen.”

Clark described her nephew as a humble child who loves music and girls and plays on the football team.

“He’s just like any other 14-year old,” she said.

— Dispatch editor Angel K. Brooks and staff writer Christian Boone contributed to this article.

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