More than an­other call: Chief re­flects on shoot­ing

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Kate Brum­back and Jay Reeves

When two vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers rolled up to an el­e­men­tary school shoot­ing, they said they found only a wrecked black pickup truck at the play­ground. There was no gun­man, and no one in­side the truck.

Within min­utes, though, they per­formed ac­tions that led to them be­ing hailed as he­roes through­out their tight-knit South Carolina home­town: One went in­side to help treat the wounded and the other searched for the shooter.

“This was more than just an­other call to us. This in­ci­dent oc­curred in the school where our chil­dren and the chil­dren of the com­mu­nity at­tend,” Townville Fire Chief Billy McA­dams said Thurs­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence, paus­ing to col­lect him­self as he re­called the har­row­ing events of the day be­fore.

Au­thor­i­ties say the teen shot his fa­ther at their home be­fore driv­ing the pickup 3 miles down a coun­try road lined with chicken houses and pine trees to Townville El­e­men­tary School. He only had to make two turns to ar­rive at the red brick school, where he crashed the truck, got out and fired at a door as it was be­ing opened for re­cess, au­thor­i­ties said.

Bul­lets struck two stu­dents and a first-grade teacher, and the build­ing was im­me­di­ately placed on lock down.

One of the wounded, 6-year-old Ja­cob Hall, re­mained in crit­i­cal con­di­tion Thurs­day and was said to be fight­ing for his life. A sign out­side a diner con­veyed the sen­ti­ments of an en­tire com­mu­nity: “Pray for Ja­cob. Pray for Townville.”

The teacher who was shot in the shoul­der and an­other stu­dent who was hit in the foot were treated and re­leased from a hos­pi­tal, of­fi­cials said. The teen was ar­rested min­utes af­ter the shoot­ing and a Fam­ily Court hear­ing was set for Fri­day to de­ter­mine if he should re­main in jail or be re­leased.

The shooter never made it in­side the school, and no one else was hurt, An­der­son County Dis­trict 4 Su­per­in­ten­dent Joanne Avery said.

“I am tremen­dously proud of our in­jured teacher who put her own life at risk to rush her stu­dents to safety,” Avery wrote on the dis­trict’s web­site, say­ing the stu­dents and staff have been through ac­tiveshooter train­ing over the past few years.

Classes are sched­uled to re­sume at the school Mon­day, but sec­ond-grader Mat­tie LeCroy doesn’t want to go. Asked whether she was scared to re­turn to school, the blond-haired 7-year-old sim­ply nod­ded her head “yes” af­ter drop­ping off flow­ers for Ja­cob with her mom at the town’s fire sta­tion.

The vi­o­lence was a punch in the gut to peo­ple around Townville, where res­i­dents say some fam­i­lies have lived on the same land since be­fore the Civil War. Out­side a church where work­ers of­fered coun­sel­ing and other aid to res­i­dents, both U.S. and Con­fed­er­ate flags dec­o­rate graves in the burial yard.

“It’s just a shock. Why in the world would that boy do that?” said Dou­glas Ay­ers, who lives on the road link­ing the Os­borne home and the school.

Au­thor­i­ties said they don’t yet know a mo­tive for the shoot­ing and they were not sure if the stu­dents and teacher were tar­geted or shot ran­domly.

An­der­son County Sher­iff John Skip­per said the teen had been home­schooled, but the rea­son isn’t clear.

The fire chief said he and fire­fighter Jamie Brock were work­ing on his farm when they got the call about an ac­tive shooter at Townville El­e­men­tary. They rushed to the school and found the empty pickup.

Teach­ers told them there were wounded in­side, and Brock sug­gested to the fire chief that he go in­side to help be­cause he was a para­medic. Along­side a school nurse, the chief at­tended to Ja­cob, who was the most se­ri­ously in­jured.

In the mean­time, law en­force­ment swarmed the school and Brock looked for the shooter, find­ing him near the back of the school build­ing.

“Feel­ing it was im­per­a­tive to the safety of the stu­dents, the teach­ers and all the re­spon­ders that were on site, he im­me­di­ately con­fronted and sub­dued that shooter,” the chief said. “He was able to keep him on the ground un­til law en­force­ment could place him into cus­tody.”

Au­thor­i­ties have not re­leased the teen’s name or spe­cific age.

An­der­son County Coroner Greg Shore said the teen, cry­ing and up­set, called his grand­mother’s cell­phone at 1:44 p.m. Wed­nes­day. The grand­par­ents couldn’t un­der­stand what was go­ing on, so they went to his home just a cou­ple hun­dred yards away. When they got there, they found 47-year-old Jef­frey Os­borne dead and their grand­son gone.

About one minute later, au­thor­i­ties re­ceived a 911 call from a teacher at the school of about 300 pre-kinder­garten to sixth-graders.

The teen’s mother, Tiffney Os­borne, said in a state­ment that the fam­ily “can­not express the dev­as­ta­tion we feel at the loss of our beloved Jeff.” She was at work at the time of the shoot­ing, the sher­iff said.

Both Tiffney and Jef­frey Os­borne’s first mar­riages ended in di­vorce be­fore they got mar­ried. They each had chil­dren, who are now adults, with their exes.

Au­thor­i­ties said au­dio from the 911 calls will not be re­leased while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing.

In a state­ment read by the fire chief, Brock said he doesn’t want at­ten­tion for his ac­tions.

“The true he­roes of yes­ter­day’s sense­less tragedy are the teach­ers who put their lives on the line to pro­tect the stu­dents and the prin­ci­pal, through fears of her own, did what was right to en­sure the safety of those stu­dents,” he said. “They de­serve to be called the he­roes, and I tip my hat to them.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A Townville El­e­men­tary stu­dent looks out of the win­dow of a school bus as she and her class­mates are trans­ported to Oak­dale Bap­tist Church, fol­low­ing a shoot­ing at Townville El­e­men­tary in Townville on Wed­nes­day.

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