After the shooting, the school went on “lock in” mode, according to a letter sent to parents from Principal Patricia Zissios. The rest of the school day progressed, but students were not allowed outside.
Parents got a more detailed picture of what happened through e-mail updates from the PTA president and the principal and from posts on a school Facebook page. One parent posted that after the shooting, as the children were being rushed inside, a teacher picked up a first-grader on crutches and ran with him toward the building.
Angela Rice said she went to the school about noon to drop off a flute for her fourth-grade daughter. She saw ambulances and police cars pulling up, and watched as the helicopter landed in the schoolyard. Another mother told her that she had heard gunshots. The principal greeted her at the door, she said, and was very calm and “professional” and made her feel as if things were under control inside the school.
Heather Cirmo, who has a first-grader at the school, said that she was pleased with the school’s response and that the school community is very tightknit. But she said she was alarmed at what happened. Her son was in the cafeteria during the shooting.
“A stray bullet easily could have gone into the playground,” Cirmo said. “We’re all thinking about the officer who was shot.”
Parent Angie Gunning, who also has two children at the school, added: “Why was there a loaded gun close to our kids?”
Linus Liddle, who lives across the street from the school, said he was in his house when he heard a single gunshot.
“It’s surprising something like this happened here,” said Liddle, who moved to his house with his wife in 1974. “There’s not been a shooting since we’ve been here.”
The last Alexandria officer who was shot in the line of duty was Kyle Russel, who was wounded during a traffic stop in September 2008. His bullet-resistant vest stopped the bullet. The last Alexandria officer to die in the line of duty was Charlie Hill, who was shot in 1989.
Patricia Sullivan and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.