Aztec High School gunman was former student, planned attack | KOB 4

Aztec High School gunman was former student, planned attack

David Lynch
December 08, 2017 10:15 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen identified the gunman in Thursday's deadly high school shooting as 21-year-old William Atchison, from Aztec. 


Christesen said the shooting was planned out by the gunman, who officials said was able to disguise himself as a student to get into the school. He had attended Aztec High School in the past but was not enrolled at the time of the incident. 

"It's important to understand how focused he was, how deranged he was, in his intent," Christesen said in a Friday morning news conference.

FBI officials at the conference said Atchison isn't a complete stranger to them, after having looked into some comments he made via an online gaming forum in early 2016. They closed their brief investigation of him after determining no crime had been committed, and no specific threats made. 

The sheriff added law enforcement executed search warrants in Atchison's house as well as his computer. In that search, he said, a paper with scratch notes was found in his wastebasket that had, "Work, packup, prep, walk, die" listed on it like a schedule. Atchison also had a thumb drive on his person with electronic notes that officials say offer more evidence the attack was planned.

New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said the man had one pistol and multiple magazines. The pistol was legally bought in November.  He shot the first victim, 18-year-old Francisco Fernandez, in a bathroom before shooting 17-year-old Casey Marquez in the hall. 

Officials say they have no reason to believe Fernandez and Marquez were targeted.

"We just happen to believe they were in the wrong place at the wrong time," Christesen said.

He said Atchison continued to walk up and down the halls, firing at random. 

Kassetas added police arrived at the school and shot out some windows to get inside just moments before Atchison apparently took his own life. 

The news conference started with Gov. Susana Martinez saying she had spent the evening meeting with Aztec residents, as well as families of the victims.

"It was amazing to see the unity from grown-ups, teachers, pastors, and to see unification of the community," she said. "Healing is beginning." 

Law enforcement also praised the quick actions of teachers and school officials who worked on their feet to lock down rooms and secure students. 

Christesen said the suspect worked at a local gas station.

Officials say the investigation is still ongoing. 

Aztec High Shcool will not hold classes on Monday or Tuesday.


David Lynch

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