Additional details provided on shooting incident near Evergreen High School

Following the lockdown of three Vancouver schools when shots were fired near Evergreen High School last Thursday, parents in Clark County are speaking up loud and clear: they want police back in area schools.
File photo

An Evergreen School District staff member reported the incident started from a fight inside the school between several individuals

Leah Anaya 
for Clark County Today

Following the lockdown of three Vancouver schools when shots were fired near Evergreen High School last Thursday (Oct. 19), parents in Clark County are speaking up loud and clear: they want police back in area schools. 

In Facebook posts on the Clark County Regional Scanner page, several community members – identifying themselves as parents of students in the district, teachers in the district, and neighbors – spoke up, saying they want better security in schools and an assigned officer on campus. The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) used to provide an officer to serve as a School Resource Officer (SRO) for schools in city limits, but those positions have been removed as schools have determined they did not want to fund them.

In addition to parents, teachers, and neighbors, one school staff member, who is also running for an Evergreen School Board position, has gone even further by pointing out several missteps in the handling of the incident. Chuck Keplar, the In-School Suspension Paraeducator, spoke with Clark County Today and said he was “disgusted” and “beyond angry” with district leadership, the lack of communication, and what he termed “misinformation.” In a Facebook post, Keplar said, “I am disgusted with the misinformation being spread by the district leadership and feel it is only right for people to know what happened. I was in the building and, due to my position, able to hear much of what happened.”

Evergreen District Superintendent John Boyd sent an email to families and staff discussing the incident at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, which was three hours after the lockdown on the schools was lifted. In it, Boyd said, “At approximately 1:08 p.m. this afternoon, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) responded to reports of shots fired in a parking lot to the south of McKenzie Stadium. McKenzie Stadium is near Evergreen High School and Cascade Middle School. VPD also shared that they took a suspect into custody and recovered a firearm.”

This email is a source of anger for Keplar because, he said, “While the person shooting was not ‘on campus’ they were 15 feet from the campus and firing towards students and staff of Evergreen High School. This started from a fight inside the school between several individuals. Staff and security were breaking up the fight and some of the people involved ran from the school, through the portables and towards McKenzie Stadium. One of those students fired shots towards staff and students on campus.

“A student of Evergreen High School fired shots towards staff and students that were on school grounds … Students and staff experienced something horrific and the district’s choice to twist the facts minimizes what those people experienced. The staff members involved were heroic. I don’t believe that the district is doing anything to care for those directly involved, staff that saw a gun pulled, pointed in their direction, and saw the flash as the gun was fired.”

In a follow up email sent Monday, the district said, “The school and the district sent out multiple communications to the Evergreen High School and Cascade Middle School community on Thursday sharing information as it became available. In the letter that Superintendent Boyd sent to all EPS families and staff on Thursday night he included the details and exact location where law enforcement said that the gunshots were reported to have been fired. It was important to share the exact location so people could differentiate the factual details shared by law enforcement from the inaccurate information that was being shared in some social media posts, which included posts that said the gunshots were fired in the school … District leadership continued to meet, speak, and listen to students, staff, families, and community partners. The information gathered will help develop next steps and inform safety and security measures.”

In an email response to questions, Evergreen Executive Director of Communications Craig Birnbach told Clark County Today: “According to VPD they responded to reports of shots fired in a McKenzie Stadium parking lot, which is District property.  McKenzie Stadium is right next to the Evergreen High School campus and near Cascade Middle School. If you have been there, you understand that there is a differentiation but they are adjoining properties. I don’t know about the exact measurement of where the gun shots were reportedly fired but it is fair to say it is close to the Evergreen High School campus.’’

Regarding specifics of the shooting, Birnbach stated, “Again, being careful not to discuss issues related to an ongoing criminal investigation, we can confirm that there was a fight in the courtyard at Evergreen High School that preceded the incident. That fight was broken up. Some students who were involved in the fight walked away from the school and in the direction of McKenzie Stadium.’’    

A mother of students in the district, Lori Brown, spoke with Clark County Today as well after posting a comment on a public social media page. “We need security checks in entrances to high schools,” she said. “Bringing back resource officers at all schools, tougher punishments for these kids that bring guns to school … tried as adults, not detention center book and release BS. So much our district can do to protect our children better while at school.”

Brown reiterated that she wanted resource officers back in the schools, saying, “I think that any type of officer presence in the schools, especially high schools, is going to make kids think twice about bringing a gun to school or on school grounds.”

Another resident, Joshua Young, commented, “Yes thank you to law enforcement for their quick response and how organized they are. Now, if only the school district could be as efficient. This school district has a long way to go to get and be prepared for situations like this. I hope the district uses [the incident] as a learning opportunity to figure out how to not be all over the place on … decision making in the future. Also hope this helps the right people in [certain] positions change their minds about having law enforcement in our schools to help. I believe if there had been an on-duty officer on campus, today’s event would not have happened.”

Anthony Covas said, “I thank all the VPD for doing their job also all the staff at the school for our children’s safety! I hope they bring police/security guards at the schools. Hope this does not happen again. Happy to hear that no one was hurt/killed. Thank you police & staff.”

Another issue pointed out by Keplar, and by two other people directly involved, was the fact that there were Education Opportunities for Children and Families (EOCF) classes occurring in the portables near Evergreen’s main building of which the police were unaware. Keplar said that an “EOCF classroom that was occupied at the time of the shooting … was never informed of the lockdown and was never cleared by the VPD, despite being so close to the event.”

In a public Facebook post comment, Dawn George wrote, “I was in the EOCP preschool building which is [in] the portables on the Evergreen campus. One of my teachers went out the door to walk down the path; when she got a few steps away from the door she saw two people walking past our portable heading away from the school, then seconds later heard the gun fires, someone yelled run! Then people came running from behind the portables towards the school. She ran back [into] our portable and said lockdown now! We had all children locked down in the bathroom in less than a [minute] and then called 911 and our administration. We got nothing from Evergreen high school letting us know what was going on. No one came and checked on us. We watched police scanner activity on Facebook and waited for our administration to give us the all clear. Other than that we were completely in the dark; we only knew that shots were fired by the portables. One even got a bullet hole in it- clearly the incident was on the Evergreen campus, but people are going to believe what they want to believe.”

A second EOCF staff member, Michelle Patteeuw, also commented, saying, “I work for EOCF. And was in one of the portables. I was shocked no police checked on us the entire lockdown.”

Birnbach told Clark County Today, “What we can say is that an EPS Staff member provided a VPD officer the direct contact information for an EOCF supervisor.  Our Staff member also had direct contact with this EOCF staff member to let them know about the Lockdown.’’

Kim Kapp, a spokesperson for VPD, confirmed to Clark County Today that the shooting suspect chased the two victims through Evergreen High School property and began shooting at them at a field next to one of the Evergreen High School parking lots. Kapp added that the incident began between two groups fighting in the courtyard on campus.

The shooter, it was later determined, was an Evergreen student, Kapp added. Given the chaotic situation, the initial information released indicated the suspect was not a student.

The incident has led to many wondering if the resource officers should return to district schools.

“This district chose to get rid of their resource officers years ago,” Keplar said. “My opinion is that, if the schools still had these officers, that this would not have happened. The resource officer would have responded to the initial fight and would have been a powerful deterrent to the student with a gun.”

Birnbach said district officials have had discussions about the possibility of bringing SROs back to school campuses in the district.

“EPS has had multiple discussions with our law enforcement partners,’’ Birnbach said. “Our law enforcement partners have informed us that they don’t currently have the staffing resources to provide SROs at this time. Therefore, the conversations have not advanced.’’ 

POLL: Are you in favor of law enforcement resource officers in area schools?*
389 votes

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