A seventh-grader of Jackson local school district died Tuesday morning at the hospital after bringing a gun on a school bus and shooting himself on school grounds.
Chief Mark Brink of the Jackson Police Department said in a news conference that 13-year-old Keith Simons brought a .22 rifle on the school bus to Jackson Memorial Middle School, after which he went straight to the boys’ restroom at about 7:50 a.m., 10 minutes before school started. Shortly thereafter, school staff found Simons there, injured from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. On the 911 call, an assistant principal told the dispatcher, “I have a student who shot himself in the restroom. He has a strong pulse but I need an ambulance.”
There was a brief lockdown while law enforcement swept the building and determined that there were no other shooters. Chief Brink said it was not clear if the gunshot was accidental or not, or if Simons was alone at the time it happened. In a news conference on Tuesday, he said that police discovered ammunition and “distractionary devices,” which were later revealed to include bottle rockets, in Simons’ backpack but no explosives or bombs as some reports had erroneously claimed.
School and athletic activities were canceled throughout the district for the rest of Tuesday. Updates posted by the district on Facebook said that school buses would not run afternoon routes. High school students with personal vehicles were released first and parents of all other students were able to pick up their children after law enforcement had given the all clear.
District Superintendent Chris DiLoreto thanked the local and national law enforcement including sheriffs, police, highway patrol and FBI who came onsite to help. He confirmed that there would be “multiple meetings” among school staff on Tuesday. “Our best defense is working closely with the parents,” he added. “It’s very challenging, maintaining a public building, to guarantee everyone's safety, but we certainly are everyday striving toward that.”
JMMS classes resumed on Wednesday. “We will have a counseling and mental health team available to support our students and staff in all school buildings. We are partnering with the Jackson Township Police Department, and we will have additional law enforcement personnel present in all school buildings,” the district posted on Tuesday. “We cherish our partnership with parents and will support any parent deciding to keep their child at home tomorrow.”
In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Chief Brink said that the investigation continues into what Simons’ plans were. Interviews are being conducted and electronics have been seized to assist in that. Police believe that Simons acted alone, and they have not found warning signs on his social media about what he was planning or any violent intent.
The chief said that the gun came from Simons’ mother’s house. “He concealed that rifle on his person underneath his clothes,” Chief Brink said. “He was in contact with numerous people on his way to school, he did ride the school bus to school, and nobody noticed that he had anything with him.” There are no metal detectors at the school, per Superintendent DiLoreto.