School shooting kills one

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 25, 2003

COLD SPRING, Minn. (AP) &045; Authorities say a beloved teacher may have prevented more violence by persuading a 15-year-old boy to lay down a handgun after he allegedly shot two students, one fatally.

Wednesday’s attack at Rocori High School appeared to be Minnesota’s first fatal shooting carried out by a student inside a school, education officials said.

Police Chief Phil Jones said one student was shot in a weight room and the other was shot in a gym shortly after 11:30 a.m.

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Aaron Rollins, a senior, died at St. Cloud Hospital. He was shot in the neck. Seth Bartell, a freshman, was in critical condition early Thursday at the same hospital with gunshot wounds to the chest and head.

Police did not identify the suspected shooter other than to say he was a 15-year-old boy, but said he cooperated and gave a statement.

Several media outlets identified the suspect as John Jason McLaughlin, a freshman. He is the son of longtime Stearns County Sheriff’s Deputy David McLaughlin. Sheriff John Sanner declined comment when asked about the connection at a news conference.

Mark Johnson, the gym teacher and coach credited with intervening after the shootings, said he was not familiar with the suspected student. But he said police told him the boy was McLaughlin.

Chief Jones said he arrived at the scene about 1 1/2 minutes after receiving a 911 call at 11:38 a.m. &uot;Upon arriving at the school, of course, there was chaos,&uot; he said.

When police arrived, the freshman was in the custody of the school’s staff in an administrative office.

&uot;After I briefly interviewed the suspect, I was confident as I could be at that time that he was a lone shooter,&uot; Jones said.

Johnson, the teacher, had talked the suspect into dropping his gun, police said.

&uot;He’s one of the best teachers we have at this school,&uot; Ashley Hemmesch, a junior, said of Johnson.

Johnson, 50, said he rejects the suggestion that his actions were heroic. &uot;No,&uot; he said. &uot;I wouldn’t call it that. I was fortunate I got the gun away from him.&uot;

Authorities didn’t speculate on a motive for the shootings. Sanner said about 30 students witnessed the shootings and investigators continued interviewing them late Wednesday.

Several students described McLaughlin as an intensely shy, quiet boy who kept to himself.

&uot;He really didn’t associate with people,&uot; said Scott Eisenschenk, a freshman who was in class with McLaughlin just prior to the shooting. He said that McLaughlin wasn’t acting any different than normal on Wednesday.

Others said he was self-conscious about his severe acne.