A body discovered in the Colorado woods near an abandoned car was that of a 17-year-old student accused of shooting two administrators at his Denver high school, according to the coroner’s office.
The body was discovered Wednesday not far from the student’s car in a remote mountain area about 50 miles southwest of Denver, near the small town of Bailey in Park County, according to Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw.
The town had been ordered to remain in place while officers from various agencies, including the FBI, searched the forest.
Austin Lyle, the suspect, was identified earlier in the day by Denver police. The Park County coroner’s office confirmed the body was Lyle’s in a Facebook post.
The cause of death was not revealed until an autopsy was completed.
Authorities said the shooting happened at East High School in Denver, not far from downtown, while two administrators searched Lyle for weapons, a daily requirement due to the boy’s behavioral issues. Lyle fled the scene of the shooting.
It happened at a school that has been shaken by frequent lockdowns and violence, including the recent killing of a classmate outside the school, which prompted East High School students to march on the Colorado Capitol earlier this month.
On Wednesday, parents gathered on the 2,500-student campus expressed frustration that officials had not done enough to protect their children.
“I’m sick of it,” Jesse Haase said, adding that she planned to talk to her daughter about taking her out of classes for the rest of the year.
Despite the outpouring of criticism for lax security, Denver school officials announced after the shooting that armed officers would be reinstated in the city’s public high schools.
According to Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas, there were no school resource officers on campus at the time of the shooting on Wednesday.
The shooting occurred shortly before 10 a.m. in an office area while Lyle was being searched as part of a “safety plan” that required him to be patted down daily, according to officials.
According to Heather Burke, a spokesperson for Denver Health hospital, one of the injured administrators was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon, and the other was in critical condition.
Following the death of Luis Garcia, 16, who was shot while sitting in a car near East High School, hundreds of students skipped class and marched in support of stricter gun control on March 3.
During a summer of protests following the murder of George Floyd, Denver Public Schools became one of the districts across the country to phase out the use of police officers in school buildings in June 2020.
Following the shooting on Wednesday, two armed officers will be stationed at East High School until the end of the school year, and other city high schools will also receive an officer, according to Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero.
In a Wednesday letter to the city’s Board of Education, Marrero said his decision violated the district’s policies but added he “can no longer stand on the sidelines.”
“I am the leader of this district who is charged with keeping our scholars and staff safe every day,” he wrote.
The school board said it supported the decision.
According to government researchers, gun violence in schools has become more common in the United States, with more than 1,300 shooting incidents recorded between 2000 and June 2022.
According to the researchers’ database, these shootings killed 377 people and injured 1,025.
Students from East High School were scheduled to testify before the Colorado Legislature on gun control bills on Wednesday afternoon.
Lyle transferred to East High School after being disciplined and expelled from a nearby Aurora high school last school year for unspecified violations of school policies, according to Cherry Creek School District spokesperson Lauren Snell.
Marrero stated that student safety plans are implemented in response to “past educational and also behavioral experiences,” and that this is a common practice in Colorado’s public schools. Officials did not elaborate on why Lyle was searched on a daily basis.
Daily pat downs, on the other hand, are uncommon, according to Franci Crepeau-Hobson, a University of Colorado Denver professor specializing in school violence prevention.
“Clearly they were concerned,” said Crepeau-Hobson. “I can’t imagine they’d do that if there wasn’t a history of the kid carrying a weapon.”
Safety plans often follow threatening or suicidal behavior from a student, said Christine Harms with the Colorado School Safety Resource Center.
In response to the shooting, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeated President Joe Biden’s calls for stricter gun control, including bans on so-called “assault-style” weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for Congress to “do something” on gun control.