Sheriff: Arapahoe High School shooter was bent on hurting multiple people

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Claire Davis, 17, remained in critical condition Saturday. (Credit: Davis family)

Claire Davis, 17, remained in critical condition Saturday. (Credit: Davis family)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Karl Pierson, the 18-year-old student who attacked Arapahoe High School on Friday, intended to hurt many more people than just his one victim, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Saturday.

Apparently taking revenge for a punishment he received from debate coach Tracy Murphy in late September, Pierson arrived at the school about 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Armed with a pump-action shotgun, a bandoleer filled with ammunition, a machete and a backpack containing three Molotov cocktail-style explosives, the shooter parked his car along the curb in the student lot, then entered a door adjacent to the library on the north side of the building, Robinson said.

"It is our strong belief that he came to the school with that weapon and with multiple rounds ... to cause harm to a large number of individuals," Robinson said. "His intent was evil."

The shotgun and ammunition were purchased legally at local retail stores, Robinson said. Pierson bought the gun on Dec. 6 and picked up the ammunition on his way to school Friday, police found.

Including the shot that killed him, the shooter fired six total rounds, three of them random blasts down hallways, Robinson said.

Early on, Pierson approached senior Claire Davis, 17, and shot her at close range, police said. In a statement read by Robinson, Davis's parents said that first responders and the trauma team at Littleton Adventist Hospital had saved her life, but that she remained in critical condition with severe head trauma.

"She needs your continued prayers," it said.

So far, police do not believe the two students knew each other, Robinson said.

"Claire Davis is a young woman of principle, and she is a young woman of purpose," Robinson said. "She is an innocent young lady and she was an innocent victim of an evil act of violence."

A friend sitting near Davis was covered in blood, prompting medics to take her to the hospital and list her as injured. It was later determined that she was not physically hurt.

Earlier, police had said Davis was 15 years old.

The shooter proceeded to the library, where he thought he would find the staff member he was targeting, Robinson said. However, a janitor initiated a lockdown and Murphy was able to escape as Pierson entered the room, investigators said.


Robinson characterized the decision to leave as “tactically the most important decision he could have made.” The staffers hoped the shooter would follow them away from the school, Robinson said.

Pierson then set off one of his explosives, filling the space with smoke and setting at least three bookcases ablaze, Robinson said.

An armed school resource officer was talking to school administrators down the hall from the library, police said. Upon hearing a commotion and, soon after, gunshots, the SRO and several other adults raced to the library, Robinson said.

Upon hearing the SRO enter, Pierson realized he was cornered, Robinson said. The shooter then reportedly turned his gun on himself.

"We believe that the response from the  school resource officer ... was absolutely critical to the fact that we did not have additional injury and/or death in this particular matter," Robinson said.

The entire attack lasted about 80 seconds and was largely captured on security video, police said.

Police were investigating at least four possible crime scenes in connection with the attack. The suspect’s car, found in the north student lot, was taken into custody, and his mother’s home in Highlands Ranch was boarded shut by investigators Saturday.

So far, it appears that Pierson acted alone, Robinson said. The student reportedly made threats in September after an incident with a staff member related to the debate team, of which Pierson was a member.



  • JakeLaScala

    I’m a student in middle school and I’m terrified to even go to school anymore, every time you turn around a school is being shot up and we are on lockdown… Something NEEDS to be done SOON

  • Lita Phillips

    Hi Jake I am sorry you feel that scared. I hope you can let parents,adults, people at your school know.
    I was on this site trying to figure how I can help out.
    I am a therapist here in Arapahoe County.
    Take care, lita

  • ColoRN

    Your response is expected. You have every reason to be concerned. You need to seek out adults, other students or a qualified medical professional and explain your very real concerns. Look for guidance, in helping process what you are feeling. Stay connected, do not withdraw.
    DO NOT let the evil actions of some rule your life.
    Counselors at your school should have information, Arapahoe Douglas Mental Heath has many qualified professionals to help as well as CU that is at the E Colfax and 225 campus and the old Mt Airy Psych hospital.
    Take care of yourself, spread the information to others.

  • Mike How

    Jake, please know that there is a community of people supporting you and the other kids! We have open arms for you and are willing to help if you reach out! Please talk to someone – anyone. Family, friends, school counselor! They are there to help! Hang in there! We will work it out one step at a time!….

  • Liberal Sanity

    We never see these crazed white kid shootings at schools like Gateway High and Central High, so its obvious that Arapahoe county needs to integrate the lower income students into the upper income schools like Arapahoe High, and bus AHS students to the lower income high schools to integrate these violent white kids into the peaceful Democratic lower income areas so they lose their rage and learn that life is about contributing to the commune; instead of reaching for this false alpha #1 Me Me Me selfish capitalist mentality. Integrate now and end the violence!

  • fast45

    Let’s ask those Newtown teachers just how well it works, to cower in your classroom with the lights off calling 911, and waiting for help. Oh … that’s right. We can’t ask them, because they’re DEAD! Sheep get slaughtered. Wolves fight. Funny how the biggest advocates of gun free zones, have their own armed security details 24/7 … Right, Hickenlooper and Bloomberg?

  • Tom

    Once again – the moment the shooter is confronted by armed resistance – the RSO – the “Gun Free Zone” has been nullified and the situation ends in suicide,

    Guns Save Lives. Isn’t it a blessing the school HAD an Arned RSO to neutralize this situation BEFORE it cascaded into a larger Tragedy?

  • Tom

    Wow, all the liberal posts are either racist or communist these days.

    Liberal “Sanity” would be a good work day on the Communist “Commune”

    More proof liberalism, socialism and communism are in lock step with each other.

    It is interesting to see how many immigrants from communist countries support the liberal agenda, and gun control. Possibly their opinions are formed from experience rather than liberal dreaming.

  • RS

    There is so much hate in the world we even see it in the comments listed below. We are all so judgmental and accusatory (black, white whatever color, American) and we wonder why our children are killing each other. Kids are not disciplined anymore either so when they come up against someone who does try and discipline them many of them just lose it and decide to get even. You did not see shootings 50 years ago in schools but there was discipline then, now most teachers can’t and won’t even discipline the bullies. I am dealing with that right now with my 7 year old he is being bullied and the school won’t do anything. I am not talking name calling or anything I am talking coming home with bruises and ect.

  • Ryan McG

    Fox News you are both mistaken, this kid didn’t go here to kill “multiple people” he did it cause is debate team coach demoted him unfairly. Out of rage he he tried to kill his teacher.

  • Misty

    I wonder if the teacher singled him out and made him uncomfortable in class. And that’s why he felt he needed to settle a score with him. My son had a teacher last year that gave him grief because our family beliefs. We are hunters and she didn’t agree with it. She would tell my son his opinion didn’t matter to her. Fortunately my son doesn’t have her as a “teacher” this year. It’s not the teachers job to pass judgement. They are called teachers for a reason and she didn’t do her job.

  • john cook

    Speaking of libtards, go to other sites and publications and check out this boy’s extreme leftist views.

    He was a Stalinist in the making and his actions would have made the fat boy, Kim Il Junk really proud.

    I am grateful that he saved the state a lot of money and grief.

    All of his ilk need to go and do likewise.

  • Rachel

    So… uh. Am I the only person that’s bothered by them referring to the kid as “evil” without further information? What he did was messed up and wrong and there’s no two ways about that, but it obviously means that there’s something wrong with him. Evil isn’t the best word to be used. Just sayin’. But that doesn’t excuse him from this at all. I don’t care how messed up you are. Killing people makes you despicable. Not evil, just despicable.
    My heart goes out to Claire and her family.

  • Linda Clark Cooper

    Rachel, we all have the capability to be evil if we choose. People are wronged every day but that does not make them load up a weapon and take revenge on innocent bystanders. We can say “there is something wrong with him”, which is obvious, but there is to much blame put on mental illness as an excuse these days to wipe away the accountability of people’s actions. Walking into a school, aiming a gun at close range and shooting someone is a choice and it is an act of evil.

  • fast45

    Criminals love “gun free zones.” ‘Sweet deal for them, when they are the only one who is armed. Criminals love Bloomberg, Hickenlooper, and Moms Against Guns too.

  • 530i

    Its amazing (not really) that the media tries so hard to cover up the fact that the shooter was stopped by a good guy with a gun. Even this story says “he realized he was cornered”!!! WHAT?? If only one guy in the room has a gun, he is not “cornered”. The story leaves out the part about the SRO pointing a gun at him and telling him to drop the shotgun. That is when he turned the gun on himself. With no armed response from a good guy already on scene, the kid would have killed many more. The police were no even in the equation . They responded like 10 minutes later.

    People who think the police are the answer to these situations are idiots. Armed “good guys” at our schools have been shown over and over to be the solution that works.

  • TonysTake

    The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gin. Can you pass anti-gun laws and feel safe in gun free zones? Nope. Arm responsible adults and properly train them to protect our kids.

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