A teenager with a handgun opened fire at an elementary school in South Carolina on Wednesday afternoon, not long before authorities say they found his father shot to death in a home nearby.
Police said the teenage shooter, who they did not identify, shot two male students and a female teacher at Townville Elementary School, located about 40 miles west of Greenville, S.C., before being quickly taken into custody by authorities.
One of the students was shot in the leg and the other in the foot, while the teacher was struck in the shoulder, said Capt. Garland Major of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. All three were taken to hospitals from the scene, he said during a briefing Wednesday, though their conditions were not immediately clear.
Major said that the shooter was taken into custody in a matter of minutes and that authorities believe this person presented the only danger.
He emphasized that authorities were in the early hours of the investigation, saying they were still trying to figure out how the attacker got into the school, which the superintendent says has security cameras and an airlock system requiring people to be buzzed in.
Major also brought up and dismissed potential motives, saying that authorities did not believe there were any racial factors, noting that the suspected shooter and the three injured people were all white. He also said police did not believe terrorism was a factor.
The burst of violence at locked down Townville Elementary, sent terrified parents hurrying to a local church to pick up their children and caused officials to cancel classes for the rest of the week, a period that was originally supposed to include school picture day.
“We are heartbroken about this senseless act of violence,” Joanne Avery, the school superintendent, said at the briefing.
Authorities say they are still working to determine if any of the people injured at the school were targeted or if any of them were connected to the shooter.
In addition, investigators are also looking into what they called a related homicide after they found the teenage attacker’s 47-year-old father dead at a home about two miles from the school.
The man’s family called 911 a short time after the school shooting, and police arrived and found him dead from a gunshot wound, Greg Shore, the Anderson County coroner, said at the same briefing.
Shore said it appeared the man’s son was the shooter who went on to the school, but he did not specifically say if they believe the teenager shot and killed his father first.
In an interview at the home earlier Wednesday, Shore had said authorities wanted to “make sure the community knows that this situation is now under control.”
Police went to the school when a teacher called 911 at about 1:45 p.m. to report an armed attacker on school grounds, said Taylor Jones, Anderson County’s emergency services director.
Jones praised the quick response of law enforcement officials, who were able to take the attacker into custody in a matter of minutes and without incident, saying that “lives were saved because of our responders being so well trained.”
Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said in a statement Wednesday that as authorities investigate the shooting, she asked people in the state to join her and her husband “in praying for the entire Townville Elementary School family and those touched by today’s tragedy.”
Parents were told to pick up their children at a nearby church. When some arrived, they did not know what was going on other than seeing first responders and police around the building.
“I was really scared and thought something bad had happened to my son,” said Kelli Collins of Townville, who has a son in preschool there. “The feeling was pretty indescribable. This is his first year of school. It was very scary, and my heart was pounding.”
Collins said when she eventually got to her son, “I grabbed him and wouldn’t let go.”
Tony Walker, a 32-year-old youth pastor at Gethsemane Baptist Church in Starr, S.C., said he spoke with a mother whose child was on the school’s playground and saw the shooter. Walker said the mother told him that her son said, “‘Mommy, as soon as I saw him, I knew he was a bad guy.’”
The neighboring Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said that at the request of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, it sent deputies to respond to a reported active shooter situation at the school at around 1:44 p.m.
“I have spoken with Sheriff John Skipper in Anderson County and have offered to make available any resources and assistance from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office that he needs as the investigation continues,” Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw said in a statement.
In live video feeds of the scene, a number of police cars and law enforcement officials could be seen gathered around the school.
Townville Elementary School serves about 280 children from preschool through sixth grade, according to state data.
About three-quarters of its students are considered economically disadvantaged, meaning they receive Medicaid, food stamp or welfare benefits, are homeless or migrant students or are in foster care, according to the school’s 2015 state report card.
Justin Campbell in Townville and Emma Brown in Washington contributed to this report.
[This post, first published at 3:05 p.m., has been updated repeatedly.]