Investigators probe motive in deadly Kentucky school shooting

Jan 24 (Reuters) - Investigators in western Kentucky on Wednesday were probing why a 15-year-old boy opened fire in a high school, killing two students and injuring 18 others in the latest in a series of deadly shootings in American schools.

Police have not yet identified the gunman or released any information about what motivated the Tuesday morning attack in Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, about 100 miles northwest of Nashville.

The suspect, who police said was arrested without a struggle, was due to appear in court by Thursday and could be charged as an adult, according to Marshall County Attorney Jeff Edwards.

He will be charged with two counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder, according to the Kentucky State Police, who said they believe he acted alone.

All classes were canceled in the Marshall County School system on Wednesday as the community struggled to understand the incident.

14 PHOTOS
Kentucky school shooting kills 2, wounds multiple students
See Gallery
Kentucky school shooting kills 2, wounds multiple students
Police investigators are seen at the scene of a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Police investigators are seen at the scene of a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Police investigators are seen at the scene of a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Police investigators are seen at the scene of a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
A reporter speaks to a camera at the scene of a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Police investigators are seen at the scene of a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Students attend a prayer vigil for students killed and injured after a 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun at Marshall County High School, at Life in Christ Church in Marion, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Stewart Walker attends a prayer vigil for students killed and injured after a 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun at Marshall County High School, at Life in Christ Church in Marion, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Tiffany Moreland and her daughter Emily Moreland attend a prayer vigil for students killed and injured after a 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun at Marshall County High School, at Life in Christ Church in Marion, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Students attend a prayer vigil for students killed and injured after a 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun at Marshall County High School, at Life in Christ Church in Marion, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Students attend a prayer vigil for students killed and injured after a 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun at Marshall County High School, at Life in Christ Church in Marion, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Tiffany Moreland and her daughter Emily Moreland attend a prayer vigil for students killed and injured after a 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun at Marshall County High School, at Life in Christ Church in Marion, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Parishioners light candles during a prayer vigil for students killed and injured after a 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun at Marshall County High School, at Life in Christ Church in Marion, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Police investigators are seen at the scene of a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Harrison McClary TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"A tragedy beyond words occurred in our community today," school superintendent Trent Lovett said in a statement late Tuesday. "As parents, our greatest fear is something happening to our children, and today that fear became a reality."

The suspect on Tuesday entered a common area at the school, pulled out a handgun and began firing at students, state police said in a statement.

"About the time it registered, this guy was sitting here pulling the trigger into all of us," student Bryson Conkwright told TV station WKRN on Tuesday. "I can hear the gunshots. He was shooting in our group."

The attack at the school of nearly 1,150 students in a small farming town was the latest outbreak of gun violence that has become a regular occurrence at schools and college campuses across the United States over the past several years.

The students killed were Bailey Holt, a 15-year-old girl who was pronounced dead at the scene, and Preston Cope, a 15-year-old boy who died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, state police said.

Five female and 13 male students ranging from ages 14 to 18 were also injured. Sixteen of the injuries were from gunshot wounds. The remaining four teenagers suffered other sorts of injuries in the panic.

Hospital officials said they expected all those wounded to survive.

Television actress Haley Strode, a Kentucky native, expressed shock.

"Devastated to hear about the fatal school shooting in my home state. Heartbroken," Strode said on Twitter. "Is nothing sacred any longer?"

20 PHOTOS
Tragedies at schools throughout history
See Gallery
Tragedies at schools throughout history
Columbine high school students run from the school after gunmen opened fire on terrified students, killing up to 25 people before taking their own lives April 20, police said. Jeff Stone, sheriff of Jefferson County, said the gunmen, students at the school, were found dead in the library on what he called a "suicide mission. GCC/RC

PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

School Number One, where the Beslan school hostage crisis and massacre took place on September 1, 2004, when a group of armed terrorists took around 1100 people hostage, including 777 children, demanding an end to the Second Chechen War. On the third day of the standoff, Russian security forces stormed the school. 334 hostages were killed, including 186 children, with hundreds wounded or missing.

(Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/Edit by Getty Images)

Twenty-seven wooden angel figures are seen placed in a wooded area beside a road near the Sandy Hook Elementary School for the victims of a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012. Twelve girls, eight boys and six adult women were killed in the shooting on Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
On May 21, 1927, after killing his wife, farmer Andrew Kehoe set fire to his own farm. He then destroyed the Bath Consolidated School, killing dozens of people, and then detonated his own dynamite and shrapnel filled car in front of the school, killing himself and several others. In all, 45 people died, most of them children.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)
Virginia Tech students hold candles during a memorial service and candlelight vigil for fallen Virginia Tech police officer Deriek W. Crouse on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia December 9, 2011. A man who fatally shot the Virginia Tech police officer on Thursday apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Virginia State police said on Friday. The incident prompted a lockdown of the campus on Thursday and revived memories of a gunman's 2007 rampage that left 33 people dead in one of the worst shooting incidents in U.S. history. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST EDUCATION CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Students are reunited with families at a staging ground set up at the Roswell Mall following an early morning shooting at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, New Mexico, January 14, 2014. A shooter opened fire at a middle school in New Mexico on Tuesday, seriously wounding at least two teenage students before being taken into custody, police and hospital officials said.

(REUTERS/Mark Wilson/Roswell Daily Record)

Policeman stands guard outside a school where a shooting incident took place in Winnenden March 11, 2009. A 17-year old gunman went on a shooting spree at his former secondary school, the Albertville-Realschule in Winnenden in southwest Germany on Wednesday, killing up to 15 people before dying himself in a shootout with police at the car dealer, authorities said.

(REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

A woman cowers in fear behind a statue while a man lies wounded a few feet away, victim of sniper Charles Whitman. Whitman killed a dozen people firing a rifle from the observation deck of the University of Texas Tower in Austin.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Friends of the late Rebecka Ann Carnes, an Umpqua Community College mass shootings victim, embrace one another in prayer before the start of a memorial service at Riverbend Park to remember the victims of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in nearby Roseburg on October 3, 2015 in Winston, Oregon. On Thursday 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer went on a shooting rampage at the college killing nine people and wounding another nine before killing himself.

(Photo by Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Red Lake Senior High School in Red Lake, Minnesota, is shown March 22, 2005. A high school student at Red Lake Senior High School allegedly killed nine people March 21 before turning the gun on himself on the northern Minnesota Indian reservation.

(REUTERS/John Gress)

Police officers walk on Edgewater Drive after a shooting at Oikos University in Oakland, California April 2, 2012. A gunman killed at least three people and wounded others at the private Christian college in Oakland, California, on Monday, and a suspect has been taken into custody, authorities said.

(REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

A man places a rose after lighting candles in front of portraits of the victims of the Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, during a candlelight vigil in Lahore December 19, 2014. At least 132 students and nine staff members were killed on Tuesday when Taliban gunmen broke into the school and opened fire, witnesses said, in the bloodiest massacre the country has seen for years.

(REUTERS/Mohsin Raza)

People hold candles alongside wooden crosses during a vigil for the victims of an attack claimed by Al Shabaab insurgents on April 7, 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya. 148 people were killed by the militants during the attack on the Garissa University College on April 02, 2015.

(Jennifer Huxta / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Columbine high school shooters Eric Harris (L) and Dylan Klebold appear in this video capture of a surveillance tape released by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department in the cafeteria at Columbine High School April 20, 1999 in Littleton, CO during their shooting spree which killed 13 people.

(Photo courtesy of Jefferson County Sheriff's Department via Getty Images)

A police officer stands guard at Dunblane primary school, Scotland, shortly after the shooting incident on the premises. The Dunblane school massacre was one of the deadliest mass murders in UK history, when gunman Thomas Hamilton killed sixteen children and one teacher at Dunblane primary school near Stirling, Scotland on 13 March 1996, before killing himself. As a result of the killings, two new Firearms Acts were passed, which effectively made private ownership of handguns illegal in Great Britain.

(Photo by Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images)

Erfurt, GERMANY: FILES - A picture taken 02 May 2002 shows flowers laid down in commemoration for the victims of an amok run in front of the Gutenberg High School in the eastern city of Erfurt. The principal of the school where a former pupil shot 16 people dead and then himself in September 2002 said the US campus massacre had ripped open painful wounds. 'When we see these pictures from Virginia the memories come flooding back,' Christiane Alt, principal of Gutenberg High School, told the mass-selling daily Bild. 'We understand what the people there are going through. It pains us to see that hardly anything is learned from such horrible events.'

(JENS-ULRICH KOCH/AFP/Getty Images)

Women gather in Nathan Phillips Square to remember the Dec. 6; 1989; slaying of 14 women at University of Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique.

(Photo by Rick Eglinton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

A combination picture of images taken from a security camera video distributed by the Rio police shows students running from the classroom where gunman Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, 24, opened fire and then Menezes de Oliveira (bottom R) leaving the same classroom inside the Tasso da Silveira school with a gun in his hand, in the Realengo neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro April 7, 2011. The gunman killed 11 students in a shooting spree at the school before killing himself, police said.

(REUTERS/Rio Police/Handout)

A man and a boy, relatives of a student killed on Monday, wait near a kindergarten in Shiguan village in the city of Gongyi, central China's Henan province May 8, 2006. Bai Ningyang, a 19-year-old native set fire on Monday to a classroom of a local kindergarten, killing 3 students and wounding another 13 students and a teacher, police said.

(CHINA OUT REUTERS/China Daily)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)

Read Full Story