GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — Residents across Etowah County are breathing a sigh of relief knowing their young children are safe. This comes after an officer-involved shooting that happened on the front lawn of Walnut Park Elementary School.
According to officials, no children or teachers were hurt. One officer was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
The suspect, now identified by police as Robert Tyler White, 32, of Bunnlevel, N.C., was shot and killed by a school resource officer.
“Thank God we’re not having to grieve over our little ones today,” Etowah County resident Connie Smitherman said. “It saddens me. This is not supposed to happen in our neck of the woods.”
Etowah County Sheriff Jonathon Horton said they have always been ready to respond when a suspicious person wanders onto school property.
“You hate to see someone lose their life, but that’s what happens when people try to do things to hurt our kids,” Horton said.
Horton said a Rainbow City School Resource Officer who was on duty at the school tried to talk to him, but White tried to take his gun. There was a physical altercation in front of the school.
Police have not said whether White had a gun or weapon.
“We don’t know the potential of what could have happened had those two officers not responded,” Gadsden City School Superintendent Tony Reddick said. “We very much commend them for that.”
Reddick said that’s why all doors to the outside are locked and they practice safety drills – even with the roughly 30 students attending the literacy camp this summer. Officials said the SRO was sent out to de-escalate the situation when White tried to get inside.
“It makes me feel nervous,” Etowah County resident Joshua Nash said. “I’d want to pull my kids out of the school and homeschool them.”
Community members remain uneasy about the situation, but they said they are grateful none of the students or teachers were hurt.
“It’s real scary,” Smitherman said. “It’s getting darker every day.”
Perhaps a glimmer of hope looking forward is knowing Thursday morning’s situation was resolved in minutes, thanks to the quick work of school officials and police.
“There were some very courageous police officers who handled the situation with the safety of our children in the frontmost of their minds,” Reddick said. “We’re very thankful to them for that.”
Our CBS 42 digital team spoke exclusively with White’s brother who said he was mentally ill and suicidal.
This is a developing story and CBS 42 will provide more details as they become available.