Denver school shooting suspect found dead as staff member remains in critical condition

Austin Lyle, 17, was found dead in a wooded area hours after he allegedly shot two faculty members at East High School in Denver, Colorado

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 23 March 2023 13:06 GMT
FOX reporter hugs son as he leaves site of Denver school shooting

The student accused of shooting two staff members at a high school in Denver, Colorado – leaving one in critical condition – has now been found dead.

Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw said on Wednesday night that police had located a male body in some woods close to an abandoned red Volvo associated with 17-year-suspect Austin Lyle.

The sheriff said that the body had not yet been identified as belonging to the student but a shelter-in-place was lifted for residents in the Park County area.

On Thursday morning, the county’s coroner’s office confirmed that the body was that of Lyle.

The coroner said that an investigation is now underway into his death and that no further details will be provided until an autopsy was completed.

A law enforcement source told 9NEWS that Lyle appeared to have died by suicide.

A huge manhunt had been under way to track down the teenager after he allegedly shot two faculty members at East High School in Denver on Wednesday morning.

Denver Police said that the shooting unfolded just before 10am while Lyle was undergoing a daily weapons search at the school.

As part of a school safety plan based on the teenager’s prior behaviour, he was required to be patted down each day on arrival at the school, police said.

During Wednesday’s search, staff members located a handgun and Lyle allegedly opened fire, striking Eric Sinclair, a dean of culture, and Jerald Mason, coordinator in restorative practice.

“As part of a safety plan they were undergoing a search, as part of that search a weapon was retrieved, a handgun was retrieved, and several shots were fired, striking those two individuals,” Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Austin Lyle’s body was found on Wednesday night

After opening fire, the suspect fled the scene.

The two faculty members were rushed to hospital where Mr Sinclair remains in critical condition.

Mr Mason was released from hospital later on Wednesday after treatment.

Chief Thomas said at a press conference on Wednesday that the shooting had taken place in an office area in the front of the school, away from other students and staff.

He said that the school and law enforcement knew the identity of the shooter.

The school was plunged into lockdown and a manhunt was launched to track down the perpetrator.

A few hours on from the shooting, Denver Police identified Lyle as the suspect wanted on suspicion of attempted homicide.

Members of the public were warned that the student – who was wearing a hoodie with an astronaut on it and was believed to be in a 2005 red Volvo XC90 with a Colorado licence plate – should be considered “armed and dangerous”.

Not long later, the car was located and a body just two-tenths of a mile away.

At the time of Wednesday’s shooting, Lyle was still on probation for possession of a ghost gun, according to a report.

Law enforcement sources told CBS Colorado that the 17-year-old had been arrested in 2021 for possession of a ghost gun and a high capacity magazine.

His arrest came when he was a student at Overland High School and his fellow students reported photos on social media showing Lyle with a gun, the sources said.

A search of the teenager’s home found a ghost gun and magazine. He was later expelled from the school and began attending East High School.

East High School will be out of session for the rest of the week and two armed officers will be present on campus when students return for the remainder of the year, the school said.

A student hugs a parent as they are reunited following a shooting at East High School

“We are working with the Denver Police Department to ensure the safety and security of our students. Additional communications will be shared with students and families as we know more. We cannot provide further comments at this time,” the school said in a statement.

The shooting marks just the latest gun violence to rock the high school in the space of a month.

In February, 16-year-old student Luis Garcia was shot as he sat in a parked car close to the school grounds.

He died weeks later.

Following his death, a group of fellow students called on local officials to take action to make their schools safer.

Several attended a city council meeting and spoke on their fears over gun violence in schools while the Denver East High School chapter of Students Demand Action staged a walkout demanding better gun control.

So far in 2023, there has been at least 18 shootings resulting in at least one injury or death at elementary or secondary schools across America, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

If you have been affected by this article, you can contact the following organisations for support: actiononaddiction.org.uk, mind.org.uk, nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth, mentalhealth.org.uk.

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