Columbine High School hammer attack: Freshman's bust gets big media attention
This morning, a freshman girl at Columbine High School allegedly attacked two fellow students with a hammer. It's a story that would likely have remained local had it happened elsewhere. But because the incident took place at Columbine, outlets from ABC to the Sydney Morning Herald are covering it. Which doesn't surprise Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jacki Kelley.
According to Kelley, investigators remain at the scene at this writing, "talking to witnesses, trying to determine the order things happened, and why they happened." As such, some of the information remains fluid. For instance, 7News quotes Jefferson County School District spokeswoman Lynn Setzer as saying that the attack occurred in a school bathroom, and the students attacked are identified as a boy and a girl, both fifteen. However, Kelley tells us the setting was actually a hallway and notes that while the male and female victims are both sophomores, he's sixteen while she's fifteen.
Rumors are flying on Facebook and elsewhere about the assault, with assorted posts claiming that the freshman, who's fourteen, smacked the older girl multiple times in the face. Not true, Kelley stresses. Although she can't go into specifics about how many blows were struck, or whether any bones were broken, etc., she says "both victims were taken to Swedish with non-life-threatening injuries and are expected to recover."
She adds that the "female suspect in custody will likely be charged with first-degree assault, which is a felony. She'll be processed and photographed and should end up at the Mount View detention facility later today."
The Associated Press brief about the attack prominently references the 1999 assault on the school in which twelve students and a teacher were slain. In fact, this version, from The Australian, actually includes a flashback nod in the second sentence.
"Of course," Kelley says when she's informed about the prominence of this old news. "That's the story of our lives.
"It is what it is -- when something happens at Columbine, it rates higher on the radar of local citizens and especially the media," she continues. "We've had thirteen years to get good at this -- at understanding the media response. This is a hammer attack, and it would be a story regardless of where it happened. But for Reuters and the AP to have already called, well, that's a little bit interesting."
As such, she attempts to put the attack on its proper context. "This is a serious assault involving a weapon at the school, and we understand the interest," she says. "But there is absolutely no evidence to suggest anything similar to 1999."
Which won't stop some people from jumping to the conclusion.
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More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "The Columbine effect: A horrific roster of school shootings since 1999."