clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

As students mingled, terror struck school

Distraught over a breakup with his girlfriend, 16-year-old Luke Woodham tucked a rifle under his trench coat and headed for school. The girl was the first to fall, witnesses said, and then he started shooting "anybody he could find."

When the shooting was done, two students were dead and seven others were wounded. Back home, about a half-mile away, Woodham's mother lay dead. Police say the 10th-grader stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife Wednesday morning, then drove her car to school.Buses were just arriving and hundreds of students were milling about a crowded atrium at Pearl High School before classes when Woodham allegedly pulled out the gun and started blasting. The shots sent terrified students screaming and diving for cover.

"He was shooting anybody he could find. He shot at me and hit the staircase," freshman Mark Wilkerson said. "I saw fragments going everywhere."

After Woodham's former girlfriend was hit, three young men and five young women were also shot, police said.

"People were coming out of everywhere. It's a sight I don't ever want to see again," said senior Tony Johnson, who helped move some of the wounded students.

Freshman Casey King said Woodham talked to at least one of the wounded. "He apologized, said he was sorry and was not shooting anybody in particular."

"People were lying everywhere bleeding," said freshman Nathan Henry. "I didn't hear cries. Everybody looked dead."

Woodham, a chubby sophomore who excelled in art, was fleeing when an assistant principal rammed his car into Woodham's mother's vehicle to stop him.

Woodham was arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault.

Killed in the rampage were 16-year-old Christina Menefee, who had dated Woodham, and 17-year-old Lydia Kaye Drew. Mary Woodham, a 50-year-old divorced receptionist, had apparently been slashed to death with a kitchen knife, police said.

Weeping students gathered in small groups outside the school, where the flag was lowered to half-staff. A makeshift memorial was piling up, stuffed animals and flowers laid gently in tribute to their fallen classmates.