Police: Richmond school shooter had guns, Molotov cocktails and written plan

FILE - Richmond, Indiana school shooting December 13. (WTHR Staff)
Richmond school shooting reviewed
Richmond school shooting reviewed
School shooting timeline offered

RICHMOND, Ind. (WTHR) — On Tuesday police gave an update on the December shooting at Dennis Intermediate School.

During the news conference police say the teenager arrived to the school with a rifle bag. In that bag was a Remington rifle and a .45 caliber pistol with two magazines that could each hold seven rounds.

The shooter also had two bottles with gasoline and makeshift fuses along with a handwritten plan of action.

Police also gave a timeline of the response December 13:

  • 8:17 a.m. - Police identify Dennis Intermediate as the intended target.
  • 8:18 a.m. - School is advised of the threat and takes action to lockdown.
  • 8:19 a.m. - Extra officers are called out to help with the response.
  • 8:20 a.m. - Officers go to the suspect's home.
  • 8:22 a.m. - Shooter and police arrive at Dennis Intermediate. The shooter runs to a door and fires three shots from the pistol to break the glass and get into the school.
  • 8:28 a.m. - Suspect is shooting at officers and is cornered in a stairwell. Instructions from Principal Nichole Vandervort saved officers lives by warning them the suspect was in the stairwell.
  • In the following minutes: suspect fires two rounds from his pistol and seven rounds from his rifle with the seventh to take his own life. He was not hit by any gunfire from officers and no officers were injured.
Principal Nichole Vandervort - Dennis Intermediate School (WTHR Staff)

"Had Nichole not been there to translate that information of where he was more than likely one or more of those officers would have either been injured by gunfire or killed by gunfire," said Captain David Bursten, Chief PIO for the Indiana State Police.

When asked if it was nice to hear her actions helped officers go home safe that day, Vandervort responded, "It is nice."

The principal also spoke about working that day to get police the information they needed.

"I feel like staying calm when you're talking to anybody in dispatch is gonna be more beneficial than being emotional. Of course you are at times, but it's important to be calm and follow protocols that you have in the building and give as much information as possible," said Vandervort.

The update comes just days after 911 and police dispatch calls were released.

In the December 13, 2018 incident a call from the teenager's mother alerted police to the threat.

They were able to respond and corner the shooter in a stairwell where the teenager ultimately took his own life.

State police and school officials released new information Tuesday on the shooting at Dennis.

It was already known the boys mother called 911 that day to let them know her son had guns and was on the way to “shoot up the school,” according to her 911 call.

"I am here to tell you with no doubt in my mind, had she not made that call, things would’ve turned out dramatically different there. Most likely there would have been more loss of life beyond the one loss of life we already have,” Bursten said.

Bursten said the teen's intent “was to cause maximum damage. Also comfortable telling you no specific person was targeted.“

Inside a rifle bag that morning he brought an arsenal to make that happen.

“A Remington 700 bolt action rifle that fires a .233 round. He also had a Smith & Wesson .45 caliber pistol. He had two magazines capable of holding seven rounds,” said Bursten.

They actually had five bullets apiece.

“There were two twelve-ounce plastic water bottles, filled with gasoline. There were a couple of rags that we believe was his intention to use them as Molotov cocktails,“ Bursten said.

The warning call from the suspect’s mother saved lives that day, police say. Officers arrived at the school just as the suspect made it to a side door.

“The suspect sees law enforcement, he runs to the door. He uses the .45 caliber pistol to fire three shots into the glass door, knocking out the glass,” Bursten recounted.

He then entered the building at a stairwell but there were eyes on the gunman. The principal was watching his every move on security camera and guiding police via 911 dispatch. Without that, Bursten says “more than likely, more than one of those officers would’ve been either injured by gun fire there or killed by gunfire.

“I think anybody with access to the camera system would’ve done what I did that day,” said Vandervort.

Police said a lot Tuesday, but never said the suspect’s name. Bursten explained the rationale.

“Part of the psychology of people who engage in this kind of activity, especially in adolescence, is the thought, the desire that they are going to obtain immortality, that their name will be read in reverence for what they did. For us in law enforcement, we don’t want to see that happen.”

Police say the fourteen year old fired a dozen shots that morning. He was never wounded by police bullets. Police say the teen and officers traded shots inside a stairway, each on different levels of the stairs. The last rifle round he saved for himself.

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