Talon News - Good Local News

By Jacque Ritchie



December 12, 2017

Jacque Ritchie

Aztec Superintendent Kirk Carpenter spoke at the press conference held following the school shooting, as Sheriff Ken Christesen waits his turn to speak.

AZTEC, NM- Thursday, December 7: A normal school day turned deadly when just after 8:00 a.m. when 21-year-old William Atchison, disguised as a student, allegedly opened fire at Aztec High School.

The suspect killed two students before turning the weapon on himself. San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen described the suspect as "Not only a coward, he's evil..." at a Friday, December 8 press conference. According to Sheriff Christesen, "This was a planned event." Christesen offered a rare glimpse into the mind of the suspect by way of a manifesto found by officers on a thumb-drive in his pocket. "It is important that I show you so you will understand how focused he was as far as his intent" Christesen said. The document described what Atchison allegedly planned to do that terrible day. "If things go according to plan, today would be when I die" the alleged shooter wrote. The suspect described how he would wait until the school buses arrived and then blend in with the students as they entered the school. Once inside, the alleged shooter described how he would take "a class hostage and go ape****". The suspect, a local convenience store clerk, went on to write, "Work sucks, school sucks, life sucks."

According to authorities, a victim Francisco 'Paco' Fernandez, 18, entered a second floor bathroom of the 900 building just as the suspected shooter was "gearing-up." Fernandez thus became the first victim on that fateful morning. Christesen asserted that by entering the restroom when he did, Fernandez likely saved lives because the noise of the shooting alerted staff to the threat and they were able to lock-down classrooms before Atchison could enter them. After gunning down Fernandez, Atchison exited the restroom, walking into the hallway where he encountered Casey Jordan Marquez. The suspect then shot and killed the 17-year-old cheerleader, and proceeded to walk up and down the hallway firing multiple rounds.

The gunman then entered the lab of substitute teacher Kate Potter. Ms. Potter, unable to lock the door leading to the hallway, had ushered her 16 students into a storage room, barricading the door with a couch and instructing her charges to get on the floor. According to reports, the gunman called out to the terrified students as they hid, "I know you are in there" before opening fire on their hiding place. Miraculously, none of those rounds found a mark, and none of the class were physically injured in the lab that day. According to sheriffs reports the quick action of Potter and the students ability to follow directions saved more lives.

Authorities report that shortly after leaving the computer lab the suspect committed suicide, ending the rampage. The Glock handgun used in the incident was legally purchased from a local business about one month ago.

An FBI spokesman reported to TALON that Atchison had been investigated in 2016 for posting in an online gaming forum, a cryptic message about what weapons to purchase for a 'mass shooting.' At that time, after questioning Atchison and his parents at their Aztec home, the FBI determined that he was not a threat and did not pursue charges. Christesen said, "In my mind so many things went wrong with this thing, it's just a shame the suspect wasn't on our radar."

At this time authorities believe the suspect acted alone, and that no one had knowledge of his intentions before the event. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional information is asked to contact San Juan County Sheriffs Department.


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