THORNTON, Colo. — Two staff members from a middle school in Thornton were at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas during the shooting on Sunday night and one of them was injured.
Assistant principal Todd Riley and eighth-grade teacher Mike Grapner were attending the concert together when the gunman opened fire on the crowd.
Grapner was not injured, but Riley said he suffered shrapnel wounds, and still has debris embedded in his leg and abdomen.
Riley said Tuesday he is back in Colorado and visiting with specialists to remove the shrapnel from his back. He wants his students to know he is OK.
Riley also asked a special message be sent to his students.
“If you focus on the bad, bad things will happen. If you focus on the positive, good things will happen,” he said.
Students said they are still shaken up about the incident, and about Riley’s and Grapner’s close call.
“It’s been going around our school lately that our assistant principal Mr. Riley, he got hurt during the Las Vegas shooting. And knowing how close that is to our school, it just makes me kind of sad because it’s so close and I don’t want it happening here,” sixth-grader Faith Brown said.
While the school has not made any official announcements, principal Howard Holbrook confirmed both staff members were at the shooting and he is calling them heroes.
Riley said a woman standing in front of him was shot and collapsed to the ground.
“Another man and I drug her to cover and started CPR,” Riley said. Unfortunately, she did not survive.
“He is a big hero,” Brown said.
“They’re wonderful people and I think once our children are in class … that is going to hit so hard with those kids because they’re going to hear it first-hand,” said Susan Weiss, the mother of an eight-grader at CMS.
It is unclear when Riley or Grapner will return to school. But when they do, their stories will be a lesson they never intended to teach.
“I think it’s really going to affect [my daughter] and she’s going to have a different outlook,” Weiss said.