Student shooting closes two schools

"By LIZ ABERG Staff writer Racial tensions could have sparked the gunfire that injured a 16-year-old Thomas Jefferson High School student Monday, according to police reports and witness accounts.However, the school district is cautious about pointing to any cause until police have finished their investigation.They are delving into this to find who the players are, said district spokeswoman Diane Turner, adding that reports of racial tensions have not yet been verified. We need to hear from police before we take the next step.The district did cancel classes at Thomas Jefferson and Federal Way high schools Tuesday so police could determine whether it was safe for students to return. School was tentatively set to reopen today, with a beefed up police presence on the campuses. However, a decision on whether to reopen schools had not been made by 2 p.m. Tuesday. According to student and witness accounts, trouble could have been brewing between two racial groups since the beginning of the month.The shooting happened about three blocks away from Federal Way High School among a group of students from Jefferson and Federal Way. The incident occurred just after school let out for the day, about 2:30 p.m. at South 303rd Street and 16th Avenue South. The suspect vehicle, a white Mustang, allegedly rammed a Cadillac El Dorado, police said. According to witnesses, occupants of the El Dorado and Mustang confronted each other after the collision. After words were exchanged, four shots were fired from a revolver, including the one that hit the 16-year-old boy in the ankle. A Federal Way police officer saw the suspect vehicle flee the scene, said Federal Way Police spokesman Brett Hatfield. The car and its driver are still at large. Police say this was not a random act of violence. In fact, Hatfield said a fight might have been set between the two groups of students.About 30 to 50 youth converged on the scene of the shooting and were fighting before back up officers arrived to break up the scuffle, Hatfield said. Pepper spray was used to help disperse the students.There were an inordinate amount of kids fighting, he said. We're trying to figure out if this was a pre determined location so we can prevent congregations like that in the future.In the short term, the suspects responsible for the shooting will be expelled from school and could face jail time, say police and officials from Federal Way Public Schools.Hatfield said police are continuing to investigate the cause of event.Police suspect the people involved in the shooting knew each other, he said. Witnesses told police the incident was the climax of an on going conflict between two groups of students.Federal Way High School students told the Mirror the likely cause is racial tensions. Student accounts say that tensions have been brewing for the past three weeks and small fights had broken out in the hallways at Federal Way High School. On Tuesday, Decatur High School remained open, and off-campus counseling was offered to Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson students and staff who were affected by the shooting.Turner echoed Superintendent Tom Murphy's statement Monday to the press, saying that the fighting is not limited to a school issue.This is a community issue, Turner said. The real issue is adults stepping up to teach kids to resolve conflicts.Turner added district officials will likely schedule a meeting with parents in the coming week.The injured boy, whose name was not available Tuesday, was transported to Harborview Medical Center after the shooting. Police are not sure if he has a criminal record. "

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