A student saw “blood everywhere” after a shooting at a New Mexico middle school gymnasium Tuesday that ended when a social studies teacher talked a 12-year-old suspect into putting down the weapon.
Witnesses heard a loud pop then looked up to see a fellow student on the floor, the victim of a bullet wound to the face from a sawed-off 20-gauge shotgun.
The teacher, John Masterson, was praised by officials for his bravery.
"He stood there and allowed the gun to be pointed right at him," New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez told a prayer vigil late Tuesday, "so there would be no more young kids hurt."
Martinez, who met with Masterson, said the teacher began to talk to the suspect, urging the boy to put the weapon down even while it was pointed directly at him.
“He is an amazing man,” Martinez told reporters.
She also praised an off-duty police officer, Lieutenant Gary Smith, who was dropping his own son off at the school and rushed to help.
“He had to make the difficult decision as a police officer to leave his child and go in that school,” the Governor said. “Imagine having to make that decision.”
Officials also credited previous active shooter drills by the local school district for preparing teachers and students.
Two children, an 11-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, were flown to University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, in critical condition.
State police said the shooter, a seventh grade student at the Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, was in custody and was the only suspect.
At a news conference, Martinez identified the “recovering” girl as Kendal Sanders, who was wounded in the shoulder and was listed by the hospital in a stable condition.
The boy, who was more severely wounded in his face and neck, wasn't identified at the request of his family. He was taken into surgery twice and was listed in critical condition Tuesday night.
“I am asking that all New Mexicans keep these children in your prayers," Martinez told reporters.
Shots were reported just after 8 a.m. in the gym, where about 500 students had gathered prior to classes.
"I just saw blood everywhere," Essance Sosa, 12, told The Associated Press. "Everyone started screaming and running."
An emotional crowd of about 1,500 people attended the prayer vigil, held at the Roswell Convention Center hours after the shooting, where pastors spoke of healing and urged residents to pray for the suspected shooter.
Robert Gorence, a prominent Albuquerque lawyer, said he was representing the suspect, who he said had been transferred to a psychiatric hospital in Albuquerque after a judge's order. Gorence said the boy's family would issue a statement Wednesday.
New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said Tuesday night that investigators were serving three search warrants. He wouldn't say where they were being served or speculate on what charges might be brought.
He also told reporters he could not substantiate rumors about the suspect’s intended target.
“We got some preliminary information that possibly some of the students were warned by the individual and the suspect prior to the shooting not to go to school. We have not corroborated that yet.”
Masterson couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday night. The Albuquerque Journal quoted him as saying he couldn't confirm his involvement because police had asked him not to talk about the shooting, but he did say, "It was a harrowing experience."