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Suspect in Denver's East High School shooting is dead, authorities confirm

A student hugs a man after a school shooting at East High School Wednesday in Denver.
David Zalubowski
/
AP
A student hugs a man after a school shooting at East High School Wednesday in Denver.

The suspect in a Denver area high school shooting Wednesday was found dead in a nearby county, authorities confirmed.

Officials said that a 17-year-old student opened fire at East High School, injuring two school administrators and causing hundreds of students to go into lockdown.

The suspect, later identified as Austin Lyle, fled the scene, police said. His car was found alongside a wooded road in nearby Park County on Wednesday evening, causing authorities to issue a shelter-in-place order for nearby areas.

Later on Wednesday, the Park County Sheriff's Office said they found a body near the vehicle and lifted the shelter-in-place order, but it wasn't until Thursday morning that the county coroner's office confirmed the body was Lyle's.

The coroner's office did not share a cause or manner of death, saying that it was conducting an investigation and autopsy.

One victim remains in critical condition

Emergency responders received calls about the shooting around 9:50 a.m. local time, police said in a press conference Wednesday.

Local paramedics were already at the school to treat a student who suffered an allergic reaction and were able to quickly begin treating the two gunshot victims.

A spokesperson for Denver Health identified the administrators as Eric Sinclair, a dean of culture, and Jerald Mason, a restorative practice coordinator, according to Colorado Public Radio/Denverite. Sinclair remains in serious condition after undergoing surgery. Mason was discharged in stable condition.

Police said the administrators were shot at the front of the school, away from other students, as Lyle was undergoing a routine morning search for weapons.

Lyle had agreed to be patted down every morning as part of a "safety plan" following previous behavioral issues, police said.

Austin Lyle, age 17, is suspected of shooting and wounding two school administrators at a Denver high school Wednesday morning.
Denver Police Department / AP
/
AP
Austin Lyle, age 17, is suspected of shooting and wounding two school administrators at a Denver high school Wednesday morning.

"During that search, obviously, a weapon was retrieved," said Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas. "A handgun was retrieved, and several shots were fired."

Police declined to answer questions about how long Lyle was under the safety plan or the specific incidents that led to the plan, citing student privacy laws. They did confirm the school hadn't found a weapon on him before.

A spokesperson for the school district said that Lyle had been expelled from Overland High School in a neighboring district for "violating board policy," according to Colorado Public Radio/Denverite.

Denver public schools removed on-campus police officers in 2020

East High School will not be in session for the rest of the week, said Superintendent Alex Marrero.

Spring break begins the following Monday. When students return, two armed officers will remain stationed at the school until the end of the year, as staff and the school board consider the next steps to improve security, Marrero said.

In 2020, Denver's public school system decided to remove its armed school resource officers, which had monitored the school campuses, out of concerns for the treatment of young students of color, according to Denverite.

Wednesday's shooting marked the third incidence of an active-shooter threat surrounding the school since the start of the academic year.

In September, two people were shot at a recreation center one block away. A week later, the school went into lockdown for reports of an active shooter that were ultimately proved unfounded, Denverite reports.

In February, a 16-year-old student, Luis Garcia, was shot outside of the school while sitting in his car and died two weeks later.

Following his death, East High School students staged a walkout, flooding the entrance of the state capitol to demand action on gun violence.

Opened in the late 1800s as the first high school in Denver, East High is considered to be one of the top schools in the city, according to Colorado Public Radio's Ben Markus.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, whose son and daughter recently graduated from the school, said the lack of safety for the students was unacceptable.

"This should never — as a parent, I can tell you — never be a concern of a parent, whether or not their kids are safe in their building," he said from the campus grounds on Wednesday, visibly shaken.

NPR's Jaclyn Diaz contributed reporting.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.