“I’m going inside the school now. We need to secure the building.”
McBride did a double take, then stared at him hard. “That’s against protocol. The SWATs from Medford will be here any minute. They’ll be suited up and more equipped—”
Radhauser held up his hand to stop her protests. He didn’t give a damn about protocol.
“You need to wait for backup,” McBride said.
“How long? Should I wait until they fire more shots? And they kill more kids?”
Three ambulances arrived in rapid succession and parked behind Radhauser’s vehicle. Six uniformed EMTs grabbed treatment bags and raced toward the victims.
Still feeling the heat of McBride’s stare, Radhauser slipped the bulletproof vest from his backpack, put it on under his blazer and hurried to the locked front doors. He took his badge and ID from his inside pocket, then pounded on the door, pressed his identification against the glass.
A middle-aged woman, with a nametag that read Paula Collins, School Secretary, opened the door. “Thank God you’re here.”
It was still early and the school eerily quiet. The tap of his boots echoed off the polished linoleum floor.
Ms. Collins lifted her hand as she spoke and they shook. “As soon as I realized it was gunfire, I announced that all students in the building should take cover, lock doors, turn off lights if they could and stay put. I locked all the exterior doors. It sounded like the shots were coming from the band room. Most of the students in the building had practice sessions scheduled in the band room, a meeting with the guidance counselor, their faculty advisor, or their tutors. We’ve gone through this with other drills so the kids know what to do. I think it’s over. I’ve heard no sounds for the last few minutes.”
“Do you have any idea which students were in the band room?”
“Nora Kemper got the key from me. And I know two or three other students came in early today to practice. Mr. Dickinson, our band director, called in sick.”
“You did a great job, Ms. Collins, and no doubt saved some lives today. A young man I spoke with outdoors said the shots came from the band room. I’d like to check that out first.”
“It’s on the second floor, just above us.” She pointed down the hallway toward a staircase. “Or you can use the freight elevator on the other side of the hallway. It goes directly into the band room. It’s used for pianos and other heavy instruments.” She handed him a key for the elevator. “You’ll need it to bring the injured and...” She paused like she was searching for words she didn’t want to say.
“Are you the only one here?” Radhauser asked.
“I locked some other staff members in Principal Lewiston’s office. He’s meeting with some other principals in Roseburg this morning. Most of our faculty hadn’t signed in when the shooting began.”
“Go join your colleagues now. Keep the door locked until we secure the school. Is there a phone number where I can reach you?”
When she handed him her card, Radhauser thanked her, tucked it into his shirt pocket then inched his way toward the staircase, gun drawn.
At the top, he turned left toward the band room, hugged the wall and came face to face with a frantic young woman, cowering in the corner. Like the girl by the flagpole, urine soaked her jeans. When she noticed Radhauser’s gun, she covered her face with her arms. “Please don’t shoot me,” she whispered, then burst into tears.
Radhauser introduced himself, gently removed her arm from her face and showed her his badge. “I’m here to help.” He put his free hand on her shoulder. “What’s your name, honey?”
“Ashley. Ashley Moorehouse.” Her brown eyes held panic and fear. “I called 9-1-1,” she stammered. “I was freaking out. I told them we needed help. To send ambulances.”
“Where are the victims?”
“In the band room. Help them. Zack and Kristina… They’re bleeding bad. And they aren’t moving… I think they might be…”
“Is the shooter still in the band room, Ashley?”
“Kristina and Zack are in one of the practice rooms, but you have to go through the band room to get to them. I saw blood through the window on the door, but I was too scared to go inside. Please.” Ashley waved her hands in the air again, on the verge of hysteria. Her whole body shivered. The kid was in shock.
He took off his blazer and draped it over her shoulders. “I want you to go downstairs to the office and wait for me, okay? I’ll go help your friends and then I need to ask you some questions.”
She pointed down the corridor to a set of double doors. “That’s the band room, but I have to go with you. Kristina Sterling is my best friend.”
“Was Kristina the shooter?”
Ashley’s face scrunched up as if the question caused her pain. “No way. Kristina would never do anything like that.”
“Did you see anyone fire a gun?”
“I was supposed to meet her and Zack in the band room. We planned to practice together. We’re part of a saxophone, clarinet, and flute ensemble for the orchestra’s fall concert. But I was running a little late and when I got there, the windows were broken and there was so much blood. Two kids lay on the band room floor. Nora Kemper and Tony Manetti. I heard more shots fired, and I ran toward our practice room. Zack… Zack Parker… he… he was… on the floor and there was a hole in his forehead.”
“Where was Kristina?”
“She was on the floor in the practice room, too.”
“Have you heard any more shots since you saw Kristina and Zack on the floor?”
“No. It’s been quiet.”
Did that mean the shooting was over?
“Did you see anyone run out of the band room?”
Had someone restrained the shooter? Or had he or she turned the gun on themselves? Radhauser reassured Ashley he’d do whatever he could to help her friends and be down to talk with her as soon as he was sure no one was in danger. “I want you to go downstairs now and wait for me in the main office. If either of your parents comes to get you, it’s okay if you go home. I can talk to you later.”
“I’ll wait for you. My mother won’t be coming,” she said, her eyes downcast.
He watched as she lumbered toward the staircase, her long, dark hair falling like a shiny curtain across his denim blazer. Her shoulders slumped like the weight of the entire world was on them. When she turned and headed down the stairs, he slipped a pair of shoe protectors over his cowboy boots and entered the band room with his gun raised.