This article is one in a series at The 74 which profiles the heroes, victories, success stories and random acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring profiles at The74million.org/series/inspiring.
The country is still waiting to learn the name of the Wisconsin hero whose quick actions averted a potential prom night massacre.
It all happened late Saturday night around 11 p.m. as students at Antigo High School began exiting their dance and came under fire from a former student, who had arrived with a rifle and began shooting while still outside.
Thankfully, as reported by CNN, officers from the Antigo Police Department were patrolling the parking lot, and the quick-thinking police officer rushed to shoot back on the gunman, hitting him before he could fire more shots from his clip.
We praise the Antigo Police Department's response which undoubtedly saved lives. Our prayers to the students, families & community of Antigo
— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) April 24, 2016
Two students were wounded in the shooting, but their injuries were not life-threatening. According to official statements, the gunman, 18-year-old Jakob Wagner, died shortly after 1 a.m.
“The officer’s immediate response prevented further injuries and possible casualties,” the Antigo Police Department said in a statement posted to their Facebook page. “The initial investigation and officer response indicate this was a lone shooter and a search warrant is being executed at his residence seeking any additional information pertaining to this incident.”
Officer Bruce Brown was one of the officers who responded to an initial call for backup on Saturday. He had nothing but praise for the still-unnamed officer who took action Saturday night.
"It makes me feel proud that he did what we've been trained to do," Brown told the Wausau Daily Herald. "That's what our jobs are about, to serve the public and do what's right and do what we can. We train because we don't want it to happen, but we train like it's going to happen, and unfortunately it did.
With just 15 staffers, Antigo’s police department is small and required additional resources following the crisis. The Langlade and Lincoln county sheriff's departments and Medford, Tomahawk and Rhinelander police departments responded to the call for assistance Saturday night.
Resident Heidi Aros was working at Little Caesar’s Pizza when her son, who was attending the prom, texted her to inform her of the shooting. Aros was relieved to learn that the police acted quickly.
"I think they did their job just as they were supposed to,” Aros told the Wausau Daily Herald. “It’s unfortunate that the shooter has passed. I also knew him,"
Emily Fisher, 19, is a 2015 Antigo High School graduate says she knew Wagner. Fisher told the Journal-Sentinel that he was bullied throughout his middle and high school years. The bullying included name-calling and violence. According to the CDC, victims of bullying have a higher likelihood of becoming violent as adults.
Schools are tackling bullying head-on with a variety of local and nationwide initiatives, such as No One Eats Alone and The Great Kindness Challenge. Still, there are cases that slip through the cracks, and bullying doesn’t account for all active shooter cases. That’s why local police train for school shooting scenarios. In Antigo, that training paid off Saturday night.
"We regularly train for these situations through the [high] school and we use the different buildings of the school district," Antigo Chief of Police Eric Roller told WSAW.
Students returned to Antigo High School today, still stunned that a shooting happened at their Prom https://t.co/UXrnNENSSg
— Jen Zettel (@jenzettel) April 25, 2016
For now, the community of Antigo seeks healing and a return to stability. At a vigil held at Peace Lutheran Church on Sunday afternoon, parent Paula Van Ooyen told WSAW, “It just, it's a shock. And we're still adjusting. We're still walking around with confused and not sure what to do next and we just know that we need to pray and move forward.”
After a sweep of the school, authorities determined the campus to be secure. Classes resumed Monday, with counselors and an increased police presence on hand to make sure students felt safe.
Though the school district told parents they could keep their kids home, Aros said she felt confident in the Antigo police department, especially after Saturday night: "The police department was, and is, on top of everything," Aros told the Wausau Daily Herald. "I feel safe letting my kids go back to school. The police did a good job, what they were supposed to do."
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