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Cold Spring students back to class for first time after shooting
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A high school student leaves a message on a memorial to the victims of the shooting (MPR Photo/Tim Post)
Dozens of adults lined the long sidewalk leading into Rocori High School Friday and applauded as students walked to class for the first time since a fatal shooting there on Wednesday. A senior, Aaron Rollins, died in the shooting and a freshman, Seth Bartell, was in critical condition at St. Cloud Hospital. A 15-year-old freshman was in custody.

Cold Spring, Minn. — "They're trying to reach out to the kids," said Ryan Gort, 34, of Cold Spring, of the more than 70 adults who stood with him about 7:30 a.m. "We missed one and we don't want to miss any more."

The students filed past a banner by the front door of the school, on which someone had written in black letters, "Aaron we'll miss you." Flowers stood at its base. A photo of each of the victims was attached to posterboard and sat nearby.

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Image He may have stopped further bloodshed

Several students said they appreciated the show of support and unity.

"I think we are coming closer together," said Elizabeth Kinzer, 17, a senior from Rockville. "I think the picking on people will stop and I think we'll all become closer."

Brent Gregory, 17, a senior from Richmond, agreed.

"This is just what the community needed," he said. "Our class needed to pull together. They always say that God has a plan for everything. I think this was it - to pull everybody together."

Abby Olson, 17, said she was looking forward to talking to her classmates. "It helps to be around your friends and classmates," she said. "It's not going to help sitting home and dwelling on it."

On Thursday, investigators shed more light on what happened during on Wednesday. The story they've uncovered is chilling. Meanwhile parents and students have begun the process of dealing with the grief left behind after the shooting.

Law enforcement officials still won't give many details of the investigation. They don't want to release too much information before they're done interviewing eyewitnesses. But they are telling the story behind what happened at Rocori on Wednesday morning.

Tim O'Malley, the assistant superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, won't release the name of the alleged gunman, but students and teachers say he's 15-year-old Jason McLaughlin.

O'Malley says around 11:30 on Wednesday morning, the shooting suspect walked out of a locker room on the lower level of the school with a gym bag in his hand.

"He removed a gun from that gym bag, fired two shots in what is referred to as the weight room hallway, a freshman was hit and a senior was hit. The two freshmen, the suspect and the victim both went up some stairs, ended up in a gymnasium on the main level of the school, another shot was fired by the freshman suspect and the freshman victim was again struck," he said.

This was most likely not something that was designed to injure a whole bunch of students.
- Tim O'Malley, assistant superintendent, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

Aaron Rollins, 17, a senior at Rocori, died a few hours after he was shot. Seth Bartell, 15, was injured in the head and chest.

Veteran Rocori teacher Mark Johnson was in the gymnasium at the time of the shooting. Johnson, who's tall and imposing, was talking with students when he heard shots fired.

"I stood up immediately, I noticed the ninth grade victim on the gym floor, I noticed a wound to his head, at that moment I saw the shooter with the gun in his right hand. I made a couple of steps toward the shooter. At that point he raised the gun at me, I stopped immediately and within probably a half a second, I took my right hand out and said 'no' very loudly, and at that point he lowered the weapon, he discharged the remaining bullets on the gym floor and dropped the gun on the floor."

"We just had a practice training about a week ago, a week prior to this," Johnson said Thursday. "So, yeah, you don't really think it's ever going to happen. But our staff went through it and they responded pretty doggone good."

Matt Toren, Amanda Theel and dozens of others were just sitting down to eat when Principal Doug Standke's voice came over the intercom with two words: "Code Red!"

It was just after 11:30 a.m.

"I didn't really know what that meant," Theel said.

Teachers had gone through emergency training earlier in the year. But the 800 or so students in the school didn't immediately know what the announcement meant - or what to do if they heard it.

"They (the teachers) were like, 'Everybody get the hell out of here! Right now!"' Theel said. "They told us to go in a room and lock the door and just sit tight."

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Image The school

Theel and about 20 others packed into a teacher's tiny, windowless office in the library. Toren and other students who didn't make it out of the lunchroom were locked in by the principal and told by teachers to go up against the wall. After 20 minutes, they were shuffled to the nearest classroom.

"We tried to get us all into one room. But it wasn't big enough," Toren said. "So we had to run down the hall and get to another one."

Jason McLaughlin, walking out of a locker room near the school's pool at 11:35 a.m., had allegedly shot Bartell and Rollins, striking Bartell in the forehead and Rollins in the neck.

When Bartell ran up a stairway, McLaughlin allegedly followed him and shot him a second time.

Officials won't offer any possible motive for the shooting. But students who know McLlauglin say he was teased repeatedly because of a bad case of acne. He's is the son of a sergeant in the Stearns County sheriff's department. For that reason, law enforcement officials say the BCA will lead the investigation.

While students weren't in class on Thursday, they spent time in school Hundreds of students, parents and teachers gathered to attend a counseling session. School officials say it's time for students to start the healing process.

Jean Thies brought her son Bryce to the session. Theis, whose son is friends with the shooting suspect, says the school is doing a good job providing counseling for students. But she says if bullying had something to do with the shooting, the school needs to address that issue as well.

"School districts need to be aware that bullying is going on, and it's not something that you just hear about it is happening and it's real and it needs to be dealt with. They need to teach kids how to deal with problems instead of with violence and aggression," she says.

After the counseling session 16-year-old sophomore Heath Burg said it was valuable. Burg said was pleased the whole community turned out to support the students. Bit like many others Burg feels anxious at the prospect of going back to school.

"It's going to be weird to go back there walking by where it all happened. It's going to be a change looking over your shoulder always wondering who's going to be there what's going to happen, it's just not going to be the same for a long time," she said.

A funeral is planned for Rocori High School senior Aaron Rollins on Monday morning at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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