Sheriff Dale Haas said the two boys, now in custody, were heavily armed and lying in wait in nearby woods when the alarm was pulled inside the school. When apprehended, the suspects were running in the direction of a white van loaded with guns and ammunition, although the connection of the van to the shooting is not yet known.
The suspects offered no explanation for the shootings, but a classmate said one of the boys had recently broken up with his girlfriend. A third boy, thought to have pulled the alarm, is still being sought. The dead students, all girls, have been identified as Natalie Brooks, Paige Ann Herring and Stephanie Johnson, all 12, and Brittany R. Varner, 11. Teacher Shannon Wright, 32, died after surgery. Nine of the wounded were also girls.
This was the third fatal shooting rampage in a school in the southern U.S. within the past five months. In December, a 14-year-old youth opened fire on a student prayer circle in a hallway at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky., killing three students; two months earlier in Pearl, Miss., a 16-year-old was accused of killing his mother, then going to school and shooting nine students, killing two of them.