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Sheriff: school gunman planned to attack 5 spots

By Chris Loveless, Digital Content Director , c.loveless@krdo.com
KRDO.com Staff
Published On: Dec 24 2013 07:09:11 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 17 2013 06:51:11 PM CST

Karl Halverson Pierson

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -

Claire Davis, 17, was shot at Arapahoe High School in Centennial Friday, December 13, 2013. The shooting was reported at 12:33 p.m.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office confirms the shooter was Karl Halverson Pierson, 18. Pierson was found dead inside the school minutes after the shooting was reported. Investigators say he took his own life.

New information about Pierson's plans for the attack came to light Tuesday, December 17, 2013, when the Arapahoe County Sheriff said investigators found evidence that Pierson planned to attack 5 different rooms in the school.

In a statement, Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Pierson wrote 5 separate letter/number combinations on his arm that correlated to the school library and 4 other classrooms.

The words Alea iacta est -- Latin for "The die has been cast" -- were also written on his arm.

Pierson's family released the following statement on Monday, December 16, 2013:

"We are shattered by the tragic events that took place on Friday at Arapahoe High School. Our thoughts and prayers are with Claire Davis and her family. They, and she, have suffered unimaginably, and we pray for her full recovery. We also pray for the entire Arapahoe High School community, as we know your lives are forever changed by this horrific event. As parents, we loved our son Karl dearly and we are devastated by what happened Friday. We cannot begin to understand why Karl did what he did. We ask for privacy during this unthinkably difficult time and hope that you will respect our need for time to grieve."

Friday Night, KMGH reported that Pierson was targeting the school librarian -- Tracy Murphy -- who he was angry with for kicking him off of the school's debate team. 

At a news conference Saturday, Sheriff Grayson Robinson said that the shooting appears to be the result of a September dispute between Pierson and the staff member at the high school. The sheriff says disciplinary action was taken by the staff member toward Pierson, but that Pierson was not removed from the debate team. He said some sort of threat was made following that incident which was reported and is under investigation. 

Sheriff Robinson said at the news conference that Pierson was armed with a shotgun and a machete and that he was carrying a large amount of ammunition. The sheriff said he believes Pierson intended to shoot a large number of people, and that quick action from the school resource officer prevented that from happening. 

The staff member who Pierson was looking for left the school in hopes of luring the shooter away. Instead, Sheriff Robinson says Pierson shot Claire Davis. Davis was rushed into surgery and is in critical condition. Another person who was believed to have been shot was actually covered in Davis's blood. 

Sheriff Robinson says the targeted staff member's decision to leave when he realized what was happening was a "very wise tactical decision." He says it likely kept this situation from being even worse.

Sheriff Robinson says 3 molotov cocktails were found in the school. One of those devices had been detonated.

Several Front Range school districts took precautionary measures when news of the shooting broke. The Colorado Springs Police Department released the following statement:

"After learning about the shooting incident at Arapahoe High School, CSPD immediately notified all School Resource Officers to be on heightened alert and patrol officers were advised to check the schools in their immediate area.

There have been no threats to any of our schools, this was strictly a precautionary measure."

Politicians were also responding to the shooting Friday afternoon, including this statement from Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper:

“This is an unspeakable horror and something no child, no family should have to endure. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Arapahoe High School community and those affected by this senseless act of violence. We thank law enforcement and first responders for their swift work. All of Colorado is with you.”

Search warrants were executed at several locations in the Denver metro area Friday night in relation to this investigation. Sheriff Robinson did not release specific information about what was found, but says there is no indication that anyone helped Pierson or knew what Pierson was planning to do. 

The sheriff says that at 18, Pierson purchased the shotgun and ammunition legally. 

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