DENVER — Several bystanders helped prevent potential tragedy at a Denver elementary school on Tuesday, after police said an armed man was randomly firing a gun outside the school.
That included a Good Samaritan, who tackled the gunman and held the suspect until police arrived, according to a spokesperson for Denver Public Schools (DPS).
Munroe Elementary School was about to dismiss students for the day on Tuesday, said Principal Dr. Abigail Brown, when several parents noticed the gunman outside.
"One of our parents came running into the office and talked about gunshots being fired in the back of the school," Brown said.
She said she immediately hit the duress button at the school, which placed the school on lockdown and notified both police and the DPS Department of Safety.
"The minute I heard 'gunshots' we went into lockdown and then began walking through the school to make sure students were in full lockdown mode," she said.
Shortly after, police officers responded to the school located at 3440 W. Virginia Ave., near West Alameda Avenue and South Federal Boulevard.
The suspect, identified Wednesday as 44-year-old Dylan Todd, fired multiple shots in the air and pointed his weapon at two people, according to a probable cause statement for his arrest from DPD. The document also notes that at the time, children were playing outside at the elementary school.
Gregory Florez said he went to the school to pick up his godson, and that the gunman pointed the weapon at him while he was in his car. Florez said he got out and went toward the suspect and, when he found the opportunity, he tackled him and began punching him.
"My godson, he comes out that same direction [of the school]. I thought of those kids,” Florez said by phone Wednesday. "I would rather see kids and mothers all safe."
Florez said another man came over to help him, and together they held the gunman down and away from the weapon until police arrived.
DPD said scratches and scrapes seen on Todd's face were the result of the fight with the people who disarmed him.
Will Jones with DPS credited the quick action of the parents and principal with preventing students from being dismissed while the man was firing his weapon.
Yuriana Rios was in the school parking lot waiting to pick her children up from school when she first heard shots.
"When I turned around, I saw the guy right in front of me," she said, explaining that she drove her car away from the shooter and found a safer place to park.
"I got down from the car, called 911, and I saw a couple of parents – I told them, 'Run,'" she said.
Mirna Prieto is another parent who witnessed the shooter firing his gun. Prieto spoke to 9NEWS on Wednesday through a translator.
"I rolled my window down and started honking and yelled at everybody that they were in danger and they needed to leave the area," she said. Prieto said she continued driving around the school building, warning others.
"I went to the front door and let them know in the intercom to not let the students leave the building," she said.
That was the message that, ultimately, reached the principal and led to the lockdown, Brown said.
Prieto and Rios said in the moment, they could only think about the children inside the building and the students' families.
"I knew that everybody standing outside was a mother or a father just like I am," Prieto said. "And the only thing you want in that moment is to make sure everybody is safe."
"I'm really grateful that, when a lot of the stories out there are about tragedies and people who are innocent, especially children getting hurt, but that’s not the story we're telling today," Brown said. "We're telling a story of exactly why we practice for these types of situations because in the real situation, we were able to protect an entire school full of children."
Once the area was deemed safe, the Department of Safety assisted the school in conducting a controlled release.
No injuries were reported, although according to DPD, both victims said they feared for their lives. Todd is being held for investigation of felony menacing.
Jones said DPS called, texted and emailed parents about the situation and sent them information on where to pick up their children.
DPD did not notify the public about this incident through the department's social media pages. When asked why, DPD spokesman Doug Schepman offered this answer:
"The department’s objective is to proactively notify the community via Twitter incidents resulting in serious or life-threatening injuries, major/long-term road closures, or where there is a potential ongoing threat to public safety. Of course, circumstances vary and are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Information on this incident was not posted to DPD’s social media after taking into consideration that the suspect was quickly taken into custody ending any further threat to the public and there were no reported injuries."
Denver Police in July changed to an encrypted radio transmission that cuts off the public from real-time dispatch traffic, ending years-long access to scanner audio.
Jill Farschman, CEO of the Colorado Press Network, said scanner audio is crucial during breaking news situations.
9NEWS and several other local media outlets refused to sign an agreement with the city to get access to the encrypted radio audio. Local media outlets take issue with a few clauses in the agreement, including one that would allow the city to inspect a media outlet’s “pertinent books, documents, papers and records.”
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