LITTLETON, Colo. -- Two students were shot Tuesday afternoon at Deer Creek Middle School, officials said.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said the suspected shooter has been arrested. A well-placed source told CALL7 Investigators the suspect is Bruco Eastwood, 32. It's unclear if Eastwood has any affiliation with the school. He likely will face two counts of attempted murder.
Witnesses said the gunman was tackled by math teacher David Benke as he apparently attempted to reload his high-powered rifle.
A parent who saw the incident told 7NEWS that the gunman kept mumbling to himself, "I'm fighting for freedom. I'm fighting for freedom," as he was being taken down.
"He looked like he was looking around for somebody to shoot," Steve Potter, a bus driver, told 7NEWS.
Students were being dismissed for the day when the shots were fired at about 3:05 p.m.
"We have two victims, both juveniles," said Mark Techmeyer, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. "They're both shot."
Benke said he was on parking lot duty, handling the crosswalk, when he heard a noise that sounded like a firecracker going off in a trash can. Benke told 7NEWS he turned around and saw a man with a rifle.
"Unfortunately, he got another round off before I could grab him," Benke said.
"He had a bolt-action rifle and he was trying to rack another round, and I knew he couldn't get another round in before I got to him and so I grabbed him," Benke said.
Both victims were transported to a local hospital. They are Reagen Webber and Matt Thieu. Thieu was the most seriously injured and was taken immediately into surgery, said Cindy Mathews, spokeswoman for the West Metro Fire District. He is reported to be in critical condition. Webber also underwent surgery and was released Tuesday night.
"Neither of the injuries appears to be life-threatening," Mathews said.
Webber was shot in the forearm and ran into a school bathroom to take cover, according to the brother of a student who was standing with the victims. Thieu was shot in the calf as he was running toward the street, the brother said. The brother said the gunman asked a group of friends if they went to the school, then shot the two who answered.
Techmeyer said he believed one victim was found inside the school and one outside.
The school was put on lockdown, and deputies swept the campus to make sure there were no additional suspects. There were no additional injuries.
The victims did not appear to be specifically targeted, Jacki Kelley, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday night. Eastwood was in the school for a "very brief time" prior to the shooting, Kelley said. He spoke with school staff, but Kelley didn't say what the conversation was about.
"There is some indication the suspect was at the school prior to today," Kelley said. "There was a brief amount of time that he was in the school, and that was prior to the shootings."
It's likely that Eastwood did not have a weapon when he was inside the school because staff did not call police.
It's unclear when Eastwood was at the school before Tuesday's shootings. He will make his first court appearance Wednesday morning.
In a brief interview with 7NEWS on Tuesday night, Eastwood's father apologized for his son.
"I know he's done wrong," the father said. "He also needs help."
Anna Stolle, a seventh-grader at the school, said she was standing outside the school after classes let out for the day when she saw the shooter at the front of the school, near the office area.
"He had a rifle," Stolle said. "I saw him walking with the rifle. He took his rifle and shot a kid. I took off running, and he shot again. I was really scared."
Stolle said the gunman looked like a high-school student and was someone she did not recognize. She said the shooter was wearing a black beanie cap and Army-type pants and boots.
"I was just like completely shocked and scared," Stolle said. "I didn't want to get hurt, and I didn't want anyone else to get hurt."
Another student, an eighth-grader, said students were boarding the buses after school when the shooting happened. Madison said she was talking to her friends on the bus when she heard two shots.
"They told us to get down, and we just laid down on the floor of the bus," said Madison, whose mother asked that her last name not be used.
[Dr. David Benke is pictured on a Facebook page calling him a "hero" after he tackled the suspected gunman at Deer Creek Middle School.]
Dr. David Benke is pictured on a Facebook page calling him a "hero" after he tackled the suspected gunman at Deer Creek Middle School. More
After the shots were fired, teachers came running out of the school and tackled the gunman, Madison said.
Benke tackled the gunman, and other staff members reportedly helped hold him down. Benke said he and teacher Norm Hanne "were on the ground with the guy and basically we were trying to get the guy to calm down after that because he was struggling. Norm was on top and I was kind of wrapped around him."
Potter, the bus driver, said staff tied the suspect's legs with zip-ties provided by a parent.
"He's the real hero," Potter said of Benke. "All the credit goes to him."
Potter said students were boarding his bus when "we heard a loud bang. We thought it was probably an M-80 or some type of a firecracker. It was very loud. The kids started to scream."
That's when Potter said he saw the gunman.
"I told my students to get down, so they would be out of sight of this guy," he said.
Madison said she did not recognize the gunman, but he looked like an adult.
"He had one of those big guns. It looks like the kind you kill deer with," Madison said. "Everyone was running away. It was so freaky.
"The people on the bus were crying. Everyone was so scared. People were calling their parents."
Madison said the buses pulled away with students on them as sheriff's deputies and firefighters arrived.
"It doesn't really seem real," she said.
Ty McGee, 14, who attends D'Evelyn Junior/Senior High School but catches the bus at Deer Creek, said he was sitting on a bench outside the school when he was approached by the gunman about 15 minutes before the shooting.
McGee said the gunman had not yet donned his cap and sunglasses and did not have a gun.
The gunman asked McGee and a friend if they went to school at Deer Creek, McGee said. When the two said, "No," the suspected gunman said, "Oh," and walked away.
McGee said the bell had rung, and he had boarded the bus when he heard the shots and recognized the gunman. McGee got off the bus and ran.
The gunman was disarmed before deputies arrived, Kelley said.
Sheriff Ted Mink said school personnel "acted very heroically" and likely prevented further injuries with their quick actions to subdue the gunman.
"I think his intent was to go into the school and fire more rounds," Mink said.
Cindy Stevenson, superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools, said Deer Creek only has one door for an entrance. "We keep the doors locked," she said.
Kelley said school staff "did an amazing job."
"It could have been so much worse," Kelley said.
Benke was almost instantly embraced as a hero. His bio on the school's Web site says Benke is the father of twins and once worked as a door-to-door Bible salesman. While working that job, Benke had a 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun pointed at him through a screen door when he called on a house in Woolwine, Va. In 1996, Benke was a finalist for Colorado's Teacher of the Year.
Shortly after the shooting, someone launched a Facebook page, "Dr. Benke Is A Hero!!!!" By 9 p.m. Tuesday, the page had more than 5,100 fans.
"Sometimes people are in the right place at the right time but don't have the courage and bravery to do the right thing. Thank God you did!" a woman wrote on the page.
"Thank you so much for keeping our kids safe," another woman wrote. "You saved lives today and we all love and appreciate you!!"
The school is located at 9201 W. Columbine Drive, near South Kipling Street and West Ken Caryl Avenue, in Littleton.
Students are being taken to nearby Stony Creek Elementary school. Parents were asked to go to Stony Creek to pick up their children.
Jefferson County Public Schools officials sent an emergency message to parents, saying "All other students are accounted for and safe." District officials said a crisis team is in place, working with the sheriff's office.
Both Deer Creek Middle School and Stony Creek Elementary School will be closed on Wednesday. Jeffco counselors will be available, starting at 7:30 a.m., at Stony Creek, 7203 S. Everett St.