Jordan Cuddemi

News Editor

 

A 14-year-old boy shot himself in the face in front of roughly 70 students inside the Walpole Elementary School cafeteria on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

Hunter Mack, as identified by classmates, was air-flighted by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center following the 11 a.m. shooting.

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Cheshire County Attorney Peter Heed said, “The initial evidence would indicate that [the shot] was self inflicted.”

Keene State College President Helen Giles-Gee released a statement on the college website following the incident. Giles-Gee indicated that one KSC student was student teaching at Walpole Elementary School at the time of the shooting.

The student teacher involved declined to comment on the situation.

Giles-Gee added in that statement on behalf of Keene State College. “…[W]e wish to offer our heartfelt sympathy and support to the Walpole community; our neighbors.”

Giles-Gee indicated support would be offered to the student teacher, as well as the college community through the Keene State College Counseling Center. “Our first concern is the safety and well-being of our community,“ Giles-Gee said.

SAU 60 Superintendent Debra Livingston said faculty and staff at the Walpole Elementary School, along with emergency personnel responded “heroically” that morning. “[They] responded appropriately, effectively, and immediately and we appreciate everything that they have done,” Livingston said. “They were phenomenal. They did everything they needed to do.”

Livingston said prior to the incident, school district members underwent extensive training and practices in case an event like this were to arise.

Con-Val High School Principle Brian Pickering said the administration “handled it just like textbook.”

Pickering has an 8-year-old daughter at neighboring North Walpole School.  “This hits home with a lot of people I know. There is concern from our end as parents,” Pickering said.

North Walpole School went into lockdown as well as all schools in the district.

North Walpole School houses second through fourth grade, while Walpole Elementary School houses fifth through eighth grade. Kindergarten and first grade are held at the primary school, which sits “just down the hill behind the Walpole Elementary School,” Livingston explained. “North Walpole is about 10 minutes away,” she added.

Pickering said typically his third grader would have taken the bus, but he made the decision to pick her up after school on Friday.

Pickering said the discussion he had with his daughter afterwards could have vastly differed from parents whose children were inside Walpole Elementary that day.

“We answered any questions appropriate for an 8-year-old,” he said. “Her questions were different because it didn’t happen in her building. I can only imagine those parents; the type of discussions they had.”

Being an administrator himself, Pickering explained how difficult situations like this can become for administrators due to privacy laws.

“Administration by law have privacy concerns in that there is only so much they can share.”

From an administrative standpoint, Pickering explained some individuals may be looking for information that by law administrators can’t provide.

When any information is withheld, Pickering said there is a negative perception involved.  “It can cause a perceived breakdown in communication, when really [administrators] are just following protocol.”

Pickering said Monday night the school held a meeting for parents and students to answer questions. Although school was in session Monday morning, Pickering said he believes the question and answer forum was in place to transition students back into school and “to get things back on track.”

As of Monday afternoon, Attorney Heed said there has been no new information released on the situation

“The matter is under investigation by local and state police with people who have relevant information,” Heed said. “It is going to be awhile to do all the follow-up investigation.”

Heed said he could not predict when further information would be released. “The whole situation is a complex matter.”

Management Assistant in the office of Public Affairs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Annette Moore, said she had no information on the current condition of Hunter Mack. “That patient is not on the list of people that I have information on,” Moore said.

 

Jordan Cuddemi can be contacted at jcuddemi@keene-equinox.com.

 

 

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