It was back to school as usual this morning after a terrifying day yesterday for students attending Central High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. It had appeared to be a normal school day until a single gun shot was fired from a small-caliber semiautomatic pistol striking 15 year old Ryan McDonald in the chest. The boy was pronounced dead about an hour later at the University of Tennessee Medical Center said Knoxville Police Department Deputy Chief, Bill Roehl.

According to Jamar B. Siler, a 15 year old with a troubled past was arrested and now faces first degree murder charges. The shooting occurred less than a month after the killing and wounding of six others at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church during a Sunday morning children’s musical event.

Witnesses at the school talked to reporters after the shooting. Chad Griffin, a freshman at Central said he was about 10 feet away talking to a friend when it happened. “I thought somebody had dropped a book or something,” Chad said. “The he fell right behind me. I turned and saw him holding his hand to his chest. When he fell, his arm hit me in the back. When I saw the blood, I thought it was fake. I couldn’t believe it. That could have been me.”

Superintendent Jim McIntyre said that although classes have resumed today, any student that doesn’t attend will receive an excused absence. He thinks the students need to return to a structured routine after such a crisis as this. “I want to assure our parents that despite this isolated incident, our schools are safe,” said McIntyre. “I don’t think anyone could have anticipated a tragedy of this magnitude at Central High School, or at any of our schools.”

Classmates at Central High said McDonald and Siler had rode to school on the same bus and they had argued before. Apparently the boys knew each other but the police won’t say anything other than that. No motive has been given for the shooting yet. “It was not random in nature,” said Roehl. “We have not nailed down the motive as of yet. I don’t know the extent of their contact.”

He did say that they haven’t found any reason to think that this was in any way race related. McDonald was white and Siler is black.

Siler is being held without bond at the Richard L. Bean Juvenile Service Center. He stood before Judge Tim Irwin briefly. The judge provoked his probation on an earlier offense, and then read him the murder charges. Irwin asked if he understood the charges.

Judge Tim Irwin is giving prosecutors 10 days to decide whether they are going to try Siler as an adult or as a juvenile. Siler’s lawyer, Public Defender Mark Stephens said he has talked briefly to the boy and he says he needs time to conduct a mental evaluation now.

Apparently both boys, Siler and McDonald were not strangers in the Juvenile Court. Siler had two charges of public intoxication and McDonald had been arrested in March on a disorderly conduct charge. Official details of these cases were not made available.

Jan Barrett

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