Stories of heroism emerge from Aztec tragedy | KOB 4

Stories of heroism emerge from Aztec tragedy

David Lynch and Kai Porter
December 08, 2017 07:02 PM

AZTEC, N.M. – On Thursday, a 21-year-old man walked into Aztec High School and fatally shot two students. Law enforcement said Friday it was a planned attack.


But the attack could have been much worse. Several stories emerged about the teachers, law enforcement officers and others who went above and beyond to protect Aztec High students.

San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen shared details about some of those individuals on Friday.


Christesen said that since Potter is a sub, she didn't have a key for the room she was teaching in when the shooting unfolded. Instead, she took the 16 students in the class and shepherded them into a nearby "supply or storage room," where they barricaded the door with a couch.

Christesen said the shooter came entered the room where they were hidden and even fired off some rounds, but no one was injured.

"The shooter came into that room and was hollering, 'I know you’re in there' and fired multiple rounds through the walls, hitting no one," the sheriff said. "We’re blessed the good Lord was watching. There were angels over those kids and that teacher."

According to Potter’s husband, she would have given her life to save her students. He also said she plans to go back to work at the high school as soon as it reopens.

Melina Goodman, Potter's daughter, called her mom's actions heroic. 

"She has always felt she could always at least still help the students who have a rough home life," Goodman said. "And yesterday she was able to help out more."


Christesen said that within the first few minutes of the shooting, custodian Thomas Hill was able to locate the suspect. He proceeded to follow the shooter, the sheriff said, while screaming at teachers in certain parts of the school to lock their doors, warning them of the gunman's presence.

The sheriff said Hill risked his own life to make sure teachers could protect their students.

"He heard the shots, spotted the shooter and following him, screaming at the shooter as he pursued him, yelling at the teachers to lock down we have an active shooter," Christesen said. "He continued to yell and follow and warn others. These people are true heroes that they’re right here in our community."


Police arrived at the school within minutes of the first shots being fired. They risked their own lives -- rushing in to save others – and stop the shooter.

During the news conference, Christesen said those officers undoubtedly saved lives. The first officers to arrive on scene were three Aztec police officers, including the police chief. A school resource officer was also with them.

Christesen specifically mentioned Lt. Joe Gonzalez and Chief Troy Morris of the Aztec Police Department. More officers arrived, putting their own fears aside not sure what they would find.

"There were some heroes charging into that building wearing uniforms that their kids went to that school, and they didn’t know whether or not their kids were going to be the victims," Christesen said. "They knew there were victims, but they still did their job and when they got that job completed then they asked 'Was it my daughter? Was it my son?' That’s important."


"Aztec schools (employees) did an amazing job of locking down the rooms and following the training of an active shooter (situation)," Christesen said. "Their swift action saved a whole bunch of lives and (prevented) a lot of devastation."


David Lynch and Kai Porter

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved


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