'Hero' janitor helped stop gunman during school shooting near Spokane, police say

By: KIRO7.com

Updated:

ROCKFORD, Wash. - Police say a janitor is a hero for helping stop a gunman during a school shooting Wednesday south of Spokane, Washington.

>> Read more trending news

One student was shot and killed; three others were hospitalized in the shooting at Freeman High School.

Thursday, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said a custodian at the school helped detain the shooter.

PHOTOS: Scene of school shooting near Spokane

Shots were fired at about 10:15 a.m. local time. Police said the gunman was a student of the school. The student killed in the shooting walked up to the gunman, police said, and tried to stop him. 

Janitor credited with helping stop gunman at school 

A custodian at the school, Joe Bowen, is credited with helping stop the gunman during the shooting at Freeman High School.

“Those are rare people," Knezovich said Thursday. 

Knezovich said Bowen confronted the gunman, got him to the ground and kept him there. 

“He wants no recognition for what he did," Knezovich said, commending Bowen's actions and calling him a "hero."

Suspect was student at the school

The suspect, a former student of Freeman High School, is in custody. 

Police say the student went to school armed, entered the school and proceeded to take his weapons out. Michael Harper, 15, told The Associated Press that the suspect had long been obsessed with past school shootings.

He said he saw the student at school with a duffel bag.

Harper, a sophomore, said the suspect brought notes to school in the beginning of the year saying he might get killed or jailed, the AP reported.

Harper said some students alerted counselors. The teen said the suspect wasn't bullied, calling him "nice and funny and weird,” according to the AP.

Student killed trying to talk gunman out of shooting

Three injured students were transported to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. Doctors said the teenage students were all stable.

One student was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday afternoon. Hospital staff declined to detail their injuries. 

A student interviewed by KREM told reporters the school had a lockdown drill practice Tuesday. She also said she saw the gunman, who she recognized as a student. 

"I heard three gunshots and I just started running," the student said. 

The student killed in the shooting walked up to the gunman, police said, and tried to talk him out of what he was doing. 

"That young man who gave his life stepped into the breach that we, as a society, have created, to save his fellow classmates," Knezovich said. 

The mother of another student, Cheryl Moser, said her son, a freshman at Freeman High School, called her from a classroom after hearing shots fired.

"He called me and said, 'Mom, there are gunshots.' He sounded so scared. I've never heard him like that," Moser told The Spokesman-Review. "You never think about something happening like this at a small school."

There were about 40 law enforcement personnel and first responders at the shooting scene, KHQ reported. 

Students were evacuated from Freeman. Spokane County deputies went room to room at the school to ensure no students or threats remained inside, until the school was cleared.

Freeman students congregated at the football field, where they were interviewed and counted. Parents were reunited with their children in groups of 10 at a time.

Federal, state and local authorities will take part in the investigation. Officials said school would not be held Thursday.

Speaking about modern society, Knezovich condemned the glorification of violent culture. He spoke about gun use in his past and growing up hunting.

“The gun didn’t change,” Knezovich said. “We changed. ... Perhaps we taught (the children) to glorify the wrong things."

Thoughts, prayers offered for Spokane County community

"I don't think anybody can make any sense out of this," Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said of the shooting. “I want to thank this community for standing together. And the courage they showed today."

A hospital official with Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where three students are currently undergoing treatment, commended an "outpouring of support from the community."

Members of the public are sharing their thoughts with the Spokane County community, using the hashtag '#FreemanStrong.'

A candlelight vigil was held Wednesday at 7 p.m. at River Park Square in Spokane. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
 

Next Up: