BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A 17-year-old student has been taken into custody in connection with a Wednesday afternoon shooting at an Alabama high school that left one girl dead.
Birmingham police officials have not named the student, but they issued a statement Thursday morning that gave scant information on the investigation into the shooting at Huffman High School that left Courtlin La’shawn Arrington, also 17, dead.
“Detectives of the Birmingham Police Department have been working through the night reviewing evidence, video and statements on the tragic incident that took place at Huffman High School yesterday,” read the statement, obtained by AL.com. “Due to their diligent work, a person of interest has been taken into custody.”
The shooting took place around 3:45 p.m., during afternoon dismissal. Arrington, who AL.com reported received CPR at the scene, was taken to UAB Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later.
Charges are pending a review by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, the statement read. Because no charges have been filed, the department will not release information on the person in custody.
AL.com reported that, although police officials initially reported that the shooting appeared to be accidental, that classification came into question when it was discovered that the shooting was caught on video.
The video led investigators to pursue charges against the student, a boy who suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg in the incident, AL.com said. He was treated and released from an emergency room before being taken in for questioning.
Arrington, who was due to graduate in two months, planned to study nursing. Her Facebook page includes an introduction that reads, “SEN18R. Dream come true, gotta chase it. Future RN.”
Her last photo that she posted of herself appeared to be taken in the hallway of the school. It was posted the day before she was killed.
Her photos also include images of her wearing scrubs.
During a news conference held inside the school Wednesday night, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin spoke of the grief of losing a girl with a bright future.
“I know that there’s an active investigation going on, but I just want to remind all of us we lost a person today, and not just a person, a student,” Woodfin said. “But I’m quickly reminded this is not just a student, this is someone’s daughter. Someone’s niece. Someone’s best friend. Someone’s granddaughter we lost.
“This is a 17-year-old who, 30 days from now, would be 18. A graduating senior who had been accepted into college already, who had aspirations and dreams to be a nurse. So, we’re not just talking about some person. We’re talking about losing a part of our future. And our hearts are heavy.”
Birmingham police Chief Orlando Wilson offered condolences to the families of both teens, who at the time of the news conference were both classified as victims.
“We have an ongoing investigation. With that investigation, we are going to sort out the information as it comes,” Wilson said. “Wherever (that information) takes us, then we’ll act accordingly. Right now, we have a lot of unanswered questions.”
Wilson choked up when asked about the task of telling a parent that their child was killed at school, where students are supposed to be safe.
“The best I can say is that’s a hard one, and we had to do it,” Wilson said after pausing to collect his thoughts. “It has been done. That parent now knows what happened to their child.”
He paused again before shaking his head.
“I don’t know how you tell a parent,” Wilson said.
Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring spoke about losing two of the city’s students, Arrington to her wounds and the other teen to the consequences of the shooting.
“Our goal is to reassure our parents that, as much as we can, we’ll work to keep our schools safe,” Herring said. “But our hearts and our minds are on the families tonight.”
Herring questioned how school district officials can reassure parents, faculty and students that a school is safe following a shooting inside its walls, but said she and her staff would work to do so every day, including heightening security at Huffman and the city’s other 40-plus public schools.
She also praised the response of Huffman’s administrators, faculty and staff.
“Our principal and the staff here at Huffman High School, for as much as they have been able to tackle a very difficult day, have done an exceptional job of trying to provide care and concern for those who were in the building and those who exited out,” Herring said.
Though Herring initially said that the school would be open Thursday, and that a crisis team would be on hand to help students and staff through the day, district officials announced just before midnight that the school would be closed instead.
“The magnitude of this event causes us to pause. I have decided to close Huffman High School tomorrow for students and staff,” Herring said in a statement. “This delay will provide us an opportunity to provide a thorough safety sweep of the school. This will also allow us to coordinate with organizations in the community to provide counseling support to both students and staff.
“During this time, we will continue to collaborate with the chief of police and the Birmingham Police Department to implement additional safety precautions and provide additional police presence at the school when students return. We want to assure our parents, students, staff and community that safety and security are a top priority for Birmingham City Schools.”
Woodfin also ordered the flags at city facilities be flown at half-staff in mourning.
The mayor said during Wednesday night’s news conference that it is important the public mourn with Arrington’s family and wrap its collective arms around the Huffman High School community.
“The Birmingham City Schools system and our entire Birmingham community is in mourning and grief right now,” Woodfin said.
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