Albert Lea native is a teacher at New Mexico school where shooting took place

Published 11:55 pm Friday, December 15, 2017

‘It’s going to happen somewhere else’

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At about 8 a.m. Dec. 7, former Aztec High School student William Atchison entered the New Mexico school building, shooting and killing students Casey Jordan-Marquez and Francisco Fernandez with a 9mm Glock before shooting and killing himself.

About 120 to 150 feet away, high school science teacher and Albert Lea native David Porter gathered his students in a storage room, protecting them from the carnage.

A 1980 Albert Lea High School graduate, Porter was overseeing a laboratory activity in his classroom when the shooting began. He remembered listening to the shots and hearing over the public address system that the lockdown the school was entering was not a drill.

The doors to the classroom were shut, and the lights were kept low. During the lockdown, Porter’s students were in the storage room, which was connected to the science room, just one hallway from where the shootings occurred. Porter estimated the lockdown lasted one hour.

“The whole incident was over in just a few minutes,” he said.

Porter, 56, served in the U.S. Coast Guard on an on-and-off basis, graduating from what is now Minnesota State University-Mankato before moving in 1991 to Aztec, New Mexico.

During the shooting, Porter said his No. 1 mission remained ensuring the safety of his students.

Porter taught Jordan-Marquez, a senior at the time of the shooting, and Atchison, 21, in science classes in prior years.

The teacher remembered Marquez as as “amazing kid,” a cheerleader with a positive personality who was kind and always helped people.

Porter described the shooter as a typical student who had decent grades and turned in his schoolwork.

“He was nice to me, and I was nice to him,” he said.

Porter said the community still feels shock, sorrow and anger from the shooting.

“It’s always, ‘It’s going to happen somewhere else,’” he said.

The school is expected to reopen Monday. After attending school Tuesday, students will decide whether they feel comfortable enough to attend school until Christmas break.

According to Reuters, Atchison showed signs of his intent to carry out a shooting before the incident.

Atchison was investigated by the FBI last year after he asked online about buying weapons for a mass shooting.

He reportedly worked at a gas station in Aztec and was an enthusiast of active shooter gaming websites.

Reuters reported Atchison disguised himself as a student, entered the school as students got off buses, and was in a bathroom preparing for the shooting when Fernandez, a pupil at the school known for his computer skills, entered the restroom.

Atchison reportedly shot Fernandez, then exited the bathroom and shot Jordan-Marquez in the hallway.

Atchison fired randomly in the hallway before entering a computer lab and firing through a wall at students barricaded inside a closet. Atchison reportedly likely shot himself shortly afterwards as police entered the school.

Aztec is a town of about 7,000 people about 200 miles northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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