Brian Messing, Section Editor
The small town of Aztec, N.M. was shocked on Friday Dec. 7, when a 21-year old gunman, disguised as a high school student, entered Aztec High School and opened fire in the high school. The shooter, William Atchison, was a former student of Aztec High School and had no criminal record, according to Fox News. Atchison had only limited interactions with law enforcement after posting a message in 2016 discussing weapons that might be used for a mass shooting on an online gaming forum. The post was flagged by the FBI, and law enforcement officers talked to Atchison. At the time, he owned no weapons and claimed that he liked to “troll online sites”.
Atchison himself died in the attack. His apparent motives were found on a thumb drive attached to his person during the attack. Atchison began his note by stating his intention to die the day of the attack. Atchison continued by discussing his plans to take a classroom hostage, though thankfully this did not happen. Atchison ended his note by saying “work sucks, school sucks, life sucks…I just want out of this s—“
There were two victims in the attack, both of whom tragically died. No other victims were injured, despite multiple false reports that dozens were injured during the attack, according to CBS. These claims were refuted by a tweet from New Mexico State Police and at a press conference held at 3:00 p.m on the day of the shooting. that day. The victims were Casey J. Marquez and Francisco I. Fernandez. Marquez was described by her classmates as “a fun person to be around”. She was a cheerleader and was planning to attend the Orange Bowl later this month. Fernandez had recently transferred to Aztec High School and was known for being interested in computers, with many saying that he had a bright future ahead of him. According to ABC News, a candlelight vigil was held on Thursday night in Aztec, New Mexico in honor of the two victims and the community.
Some are being hailed as heroes for their efforts during the shooting. 73-year old substitute teacher, Katie Potter, was in a classroom that was within earshot of where the shooting took place. Potter immediately told her students to get down on the floor and proceeded to push a sofa up to the door to barricade the room from any potential violence. Potter then consoled students by telling them that everything would be fine and not to worry. The sofa remained in position until Sherriff’s deputies arrived and entered the room.
Both Aztec Police Chief Mike Heal and New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez noted that there were tremendous acts of bravery that took place during the event. Heal noted that two police officers entered the school within a minute of the attack taking place and before the school was placed on lockdown. Martinez stated that the New Mexico Education department will provide emergency funding of $120,000 to the Aztec School District to assist with the aftermath of the event. Martinez also gave words of healing to the Aztec community “Healing and peace will take time; it just will… but this is a small community where everyone knows everyone else, and we’ve got to lift those who need to be lifted. … I want the people of Aztec to know that New Mexicans stand with you.”