On Tuesday morning during a scheduled fire drill, a 17-year-old student shot himself in a courtyard outside of Lake Minneola High School in Florida. According to WKMG, police have described his suicide as a “planned event.”
The high school senior, Seth Sutherland, was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Harrell told WKMG:
“We have reasons to believe that this was a planned event. [The courtyard near the bus loop] is out in the open, but it was not a very populated and crowded area at that time. It seems like the majority of the student body was on the other side of the building.”
He also clarified that, at this time, officials don’t believe any student witnessed or heard the shooting — although another student discovered the wounded boy.
But before Sutherland killed himself, he messaged his loved ones goodbye, as well as publicly called out several individuals on Snapchat whom he believed were, in part, responsible for his suicide.
That aspect is what’s frightening some parents the most. James Wolfe, a former police officer whose daughter attends the school, told WKMG he’s grateful no one else was injured by the student’s handgun:
“Given what goes on in our society right now, when somebody has a problem with somebody else they seem to kill everyone, and I’m just thankful that no one else was hurt. It’s a shame that he did this to himself, but I’m scared for my daughter if someone else decides to come with a gun.”
Like most parents, however, he feels somewhat helpless:
“I just want to keep my kid safe. Unfortunately I can’t do what I used to do anymore to make sure people are safe, so I have to rely on others. Let’s pray for them too.”
Sixteen-year-old Isaiah Vargas gave merit to Wolfe’s fears when he told WKMG that, at first, no one was sure it wasn’t an active shooter or similar threat:
“At first kids were saying someone stabbed him or there was an active shooter or whatnot but then the teacher came inside and said, ‘Look, someone tried to commit suicide, there was a gun and everything; people trying to help him.’ I knew right at that moment things got pretty serious because the principal started crying on the announcements and everything, saying this was an emergency; please stay safe.”
He also said he saw Sutherland’s “lifeless” body through a window as teachers “were running” around.
And because it happened out in the open, some parents learned of the incident from students or through social media before the school could even round up enough answers to send a proper message.Settyboy2018/Instagram
Lake County Schools Communications Officer Sherri Owens told WKMG it all happened very quickly:
“In this age of social media, some of the students had alerted parents even before we had the opportunity to do so. But when we alerted parents we wanted to make sure we had confirmed as many details as we could. So when our message went out we told parents, ‘It appeared a student took his life this morning.'”
Yet many more questions remain unanswered as officials begin to investigate. Owens said, first and foremost, they need to figure out how Sutherland got the gun on campus:
“That’s part of what we’re going to be looking at — how this happened. We’ll be taking a look at this as a school family, the things we can do differently, and I’m sure the individual families will be doing the same.”
It’s also still unclear who the gun belonged to.
For now, according to WKMG, students and faculty have access to a crisis team which includes grief counselors.
If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or visit its website.