Police: 'Hero' janitor helped stop gunman during school shooting near Spokane

ROCKFORD, Wash. — Police say a janitor helped stop the gunman during a school shooting Wednesday south of Spokane.

One student was shot and killed; three others were hospitalized in the shooting at Freeman High School.

Thursday, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said a custodian at the school helped detain the shooter.

PHOTOS: Scene of school shooting near Spokane

Shots were fired at about 10:15 a.m. Police said the gunman was a student of the school. The student killed in the shooting walked up to the gunman, police said, and tried to stop him.

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Janitor credited with helping stop gunman at school 

A custodian at the school, Joe Bowen, is credited with helping stop the gunman during the shooting at Freeman High School.

“Those are rare people," Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Thursday.

Knezovich said Bowen confronted the gunman, got him to the ground and kept him there.

“He wants no recognition for what he did," Knezovich said, commending Bowen's actions and calling him a "hero."

Suspect was student at the school

The suspect, a former student of Freeman High School, is in custody.




Police say the student went to school armed, entered the school and proceeded to take his weapons out. Michael Harper, who's 15, told The Associated Press that the suspect had long been obsessed with past school shootings.

He said he saw the student at school with a duffel bag.

Harper, a sophomore, said the suspect brought notes to school in the beginning of the year saying he might get killed or jailed.

Harper said some students alerted counselors. The teen said the suspect wasn't bullied, calling him "nice and funny and weird."

KREM reports students who witnessed the shooting identified the gunman as Caleb Sharpe.

Student killed trying to talk gunman out of shooting

Three injured students were transported to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. Doctors said the teenage students were all stable.

One student was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday afternoon. Hospital staff declined to detail their injuries.

A student interviewed by KREM told reporters the school had a lockdown drill practice Tuesday. She also said she saw the gunman, who she recognized as a student.

"I heard three gunshots and I just started running," the student said.

The student killed in the shooting, Sam Strahan, walked up to the gunman, police said, and tried to talk him out of what he was doing.

"That young man who gave his life stepped into the breach that we, as a society, have created – to save his fellow classmates," Sheriff Knezovich said of Strahan.

The mother of another student, Cheryl Moser, said her son, a freshman at Freeman High School, called her from a classroom after hearing shots fired.

"He called me and said, 'Mom, there are gunshots.' He sounded so scared. I've never heard him like that," Moser told The Spokesman-Review newspaper. "You never think about something happening like this at a small school."

There were about 40 law enforcement personnel and first responders at the shooting scene, KHQ said.

Students were evacuated from Freeman. Spokane County deputies went room to room at the school to ensure no students or threats remained inside, until the school was cleared.

Freeman students congregated at the football field, where they were interviewed and counted. Parents were reunited with their children in groups of 10 at a time.




Federal, state and local authorities will take part in the investigation. Officials said school would not be held Thursday.

Speaking about modern society, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich condemned the glorification of violent culture. He spoke about gun use in his past and growing up hunting.

“The gun didn’t change,” Knezovich said. “We changed. ... Perhaps we taught (the children) to glorify the wrong things."

Thoughts, prayers offered for Spokane County community

"I don't think anybody can make any sense out of this," Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said of the shooting.

"I want to thank this community for standing together," Knezovich said. "And the courage they showed today."

A hospital official with Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where three students are currently undergoing treatment, commended an "outpouring of support from the community."

Members of the public are sharing their thoughts with the Spokane County community, using the hashtag '#FreemanStrong.'

A candlelight vigil was held Wednesday at 7 p.m. at River Park Square in Spokane.

WATCH LIVE: Latest news conference after school shooting near Spokane yesterday. One student was killed and three others were hospitalized. More info: kiro.tv/SpokaneSchools

Posted by KIRO 7 News on Thursday, September 14, 2017

FREEMAN HIGH SCHOOL: One student was killed and three others were injured -- in a school shooting near Spokane today. INFORMATION: kiro.tv/SpokaneSchools LIVE COVERAGE: kiro.tv/StreamingNow

Posted by KIRO 7 News on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

#BREAKING: One student died at Freeman High School today after a shooting. At least three students are injured. >>...

Posted by KIRO 7 News on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.