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Harrisburg High School will be stronger because of shooting

HARRISBURG, S.D. -- Harrisburg High School sophomore Kira Snow hid in a closet in a photography classroom Wednesday after it came over the public address system that a gunman was in the building and a shooting had occurred.

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Harrisburg, South Dakota, High School students Will Berringer and Kira Snow, return to school Thursday, a day after their principal was shot in his office. (Barry Amundson | Forum News Service)

HARRISBURG, S.D. - Harrisburg High School sophomore Kira Snow hid in a closet in a photography classroom Wednesday after it came over the public address system that a gunman was in the building and a shooting had occurred.
“I was really scared,” said the 15-year-old. “It just happened all of a sudden.”
While their teacher had the left the room for a few minutes, she said a neighboring teacher came over and got her and her classmates and locked them in the next door room.
All classrooms in the school have locks.
The wait then began as the lockdown hung on for hours.
However, as Snow left school Thursday, she said she felt better about the frightening incident - said to be the first school shooting in South Dakota according to law officers.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Snow said.
She said teachers really helped calm the students Thursday.
“They told us we didn’t have to worry. And they reassured us that because of what happened we would be a stronger school in the long run,” Snow said.
“I felt safer then,” she said.
Her boyfriend, Will Berringer, was on a field trip to nearby Sioux Falls so he avoided the shooting incident.
However, because of the lockdown at the school, he said he was among all of the high school students taken to the district’s middle school where they were reunited with their parents.
In the meantime, Lincoln County Sheriff Dennis Johnson said as soon as the call came in about the shooting he had a deputy on the scene in 31 seconds as the deputy was in the area of the school.
Within minutes, the number of law officers grew and grew until about 80 county, city, state and federal law officers were at the school.
“We needed every one of them,” Johnson, the sheriff for 17 years, said. They had to secure the school, sweep the grounds to see if there were any other victims or gunmen, help with controlling traffic and the situation in general and provide security at the district’s other schools.
Other detectives were sent to shooting suspect Mason’s Buhl’s apartment to do a search and check on the home.
Other officers then had to set up a secure passage for students to load buses and transfer them to the district’s middle school for that reunification with loved ones. That finally happened about three hours after the 10 a.m. shooting.
For the law officers, when all was said and done, it was about 5 p.m.
“It was a massive law enforcement effort,” the sheriff said, complimenting all of those involved for their response and cooperation.
As for what transpired at the school earlier in the day, the sheriff also had words of praise.
Assistant principal Ryan Rollinger and athletic director Joey Struwe who subdued the shooting suspect until law officers arrived have rightly been labeled heroes, he suggested.
“They just did a great job,” Johnson said. “What they did was phenomenal.”
He was happy to report, however, that the shooting victim - principal Kevin Lien - was back in his office Thursday morning with his arm in a sling.
“It’s my therapy,” Lien said Thursday afternoon.
Lien also said he didn’t want one student to define what Harrisburg or South Dakota was like.

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