Reynolds High School shooter: quiet, 'kind,' and fascinated by guns
Students and others in Troutdale, Ore., are having trouble reconciling their views of freshman Jared Michael Padgett with his murderous attack Tuesday at Reynolds High School. One student was killed, and a teacher was injured.
The narrative is becoming eerily familiar. Jared Michael Padgett appeared to most who knew him to be a quiet, respectful, and deeply religious student – right up until he opened fire on his high school classmates, killed a fellow freshman, injured a teacher, and turned his gun on himself.
Armed with an assault rifle, a semiautomatic handgun, and nine ammunition cartridges, the 15-year-old approached the Reynolds High School gymnasium building at about 8 a.m. local time Tuesday, where he fatally shot Emilio Hoffman, 14, in the locker room, police say.
“We have not established any link between the student and shooter,” Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson said at a press conference Wednesday. “At this time it would be inappropriate to discuss a motive.”
A bullet grazed the hip of gym teacher Todd Rispler, who nonetheless managed to make his way to the main office to alert administrators and begin a schoolwide lockdown.
When police arrived, Jared exchanged fire with police before retreating to a bathroom stall and turning his gun on himself, Chief Anderson said.
The shooting at the Troutdale, Ore. high school, 16 miles east of Portland, was the third such attack at a US high school or college in as many weeks. The online news outlet Vox reported that the incident was the 74th school shooting since the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012.
Fellow students had trouble making sense of Jared's actions, with some describing him as a nice kid, “somebody you’d want to have on your side,” the Associated Press reports.
Earl Milliron, a longtime friend of the Padgett family, said Jared was a devout Mormon who was ordained as a deacon at age 12 and was selected by the bishop as president of the deacons’ quorum. Milliron added that Jared was in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program and had plans to join the military, like his oldest brother who served in Afghanistan.
“I saw Jared at church every Sunday,” Mr. Milliron told the AP. “I refuse in my mind to believe that Jared Michael who did the shooting is the same Jared Michael I knew.”
Jared and his five siblings lived with their father since their parents separated about five years ago, the family friend said.
“His father never told me he was worried about Jared. And I never suspected that he had serious problems,” Milliron told the AP. “He was very quiet, I never saw him angry, he was extremely even-tempered, he was always at the best possible behavior.”
Jared’s fellow students said Jared did have a temper, but that he was generally respectful and kind.
“He helped kids, and I never would have thought he would do that,” Kaylah Ensign, who had a class with Jared and was a close friend of Emilio, told the AP.
Kaylah told The Oregonian that Jared frequently talked about guns.
“It was insane how much he knew,” she told the Portland-based paper. “He would say all the types of guns and could name anything.”
Jared took the weapons used in the attack from his family home, according to Chief Anderson.
“The weapons had been secured, but he defeated the security measures,” Anderson said during a briefing Wednesday.
About 200 people attended a candlelit vigil for the slain student at Angthem Church in Multnomah County, Wednesday night, The Oregonian reports.
Emilio's family released a statement through the Troutdale police, which the local ABC-affiliate KATU published online in full. Jennifer Hoffman described her son as an avid soccer player who had an infectious laugh.
“You couldn’t be around Emilio without laughing,” his mother wrote. "Anyone who has ever met Emilio laughed with him."
This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.