One student was killed and seven classmates were injured, per reports, at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, located in the Denver suburbs where Malone’s two daughters attend a different school. Two Highlands Ranch students were taken into custody, including an 18-year-old identified as Devon Erickson, in an attack that confirmed local fears that the 20th anniversary of the nearby Columbine massacre might not pass without a similar incident.
“The [STEM] school is literally two minutes away from where I live,” Malone, 47, told reporters (via ESPN) before the Nuggets’ 124-98 victory gave them a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals. “My wife and daughters know people. As a coach, I am somewhat of a recluse, but it’s a close community.”
“It’s not just Highlands Ranch. It’s not just Colorado. This is an epidemic,” he added. “And it continues to happen. And that is the frustrating thing.”
“How do you stop it? Again, gun control, laws, whatever it might be,” Malone continued. “I am not a politician. I don’t want to sit up here on a soap box. I just want everybody back at Highlands Ranch to know that we’re with you, and that is really important for them to know.”
Malone said he was at Pepsi Center, the Nuggets’ home arena, getting ready for Game 5 of a second-round series tied at 2-2 with the Blazers, when his wife called him to say that their daughters were safe but frightened by what had happened.
“The thing that makes you angry is that, she’s telling me how scared my daughters are in their schools, texting her, because they don’t know what’s going on — it’s a lockout,” Malone said. “Where’s this shooter? Is it at our school? Some other school? The kids go to school, they should be going to school to learn, have fun, be with their friends. Not worry about an active shooter . . . It’s just frustrating and it gets you angry because it hits home. And that’s how I felt today.”
Malone said he wasn’t sure if he would discuss the shooting with his players after the game Tuesday, positing that it might be a “conversation and a subject” better broached “on an off day.” When asked about what he planned to say to his daughters, the coach reportedly grew visibly emotional.
“That’s a great question and, you know, that’s something I haven’t even really thought about,” Malone said. “I’m texting my daughter, telling her she’s going to be okay. I don’t even know if she will be okay.
“This is every parent’s worst nightmare and it’s something that, when you see your kids go to school in the morning, it’s, ‘Have a great day,’ and just assume everything is going to be all right. And as we all know, it’s not. So, you figure it out.”
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said that the injured students were 15 years or older, at a charter school with more than 1,800 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. He added that “the quick response of the officers that got inside that school helped save lives,” with another Sheriff’s Office official noting that a police substation located just blocks from the school allowed for a rapid reaction to reports of gunfire.
The Columbine High massacre on April 20, 1999, in which 12 students and a teacher died, ushered in an era of school shootings that have terrified children and parents, and vexed school administrators, law-enforcement officials and politicians. The Denver community was rattled last month when an 18-year-old woman who traveled to the area from Florida and was thought to be obsessed with Columbine turned up dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In a shooting last week at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, two people were killed and four others wounded. “We know for many people here, this will be the worst day of their lives,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), adding, “This violence has to stop.”
“I know thoughts and prayers are never enough,” Malone said on Tuesday. “And from myself, our team, our organization, our thoughts and prayers are with all those families, students, school administrators, everybody that was there today. It’s a tragedy.”
Malone thanked the Douglas County sheriff’s department and “all the first responders” who helped the episode “not become worse than it was.”
“But it’s a shame,” the coach continued. “My girls have been in a lockout twice in the last month. I’m not a politician, I don’t have the answers, but something must change.”
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