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SANDY — A 16-year-old boy was critically injured and a 14-year-old boy was arrested for investigation of attempted murder following a shooting Tuesday outside Union Middle School.
The shooting occurred few minutes after 3 p.m. on the north end of the school grounds, 615 E. 8000 South, just as class was letting out for the day, said Sandy Police Sgt. Dean Carriger. The younger teen shot the 16-year-old twice, the sergeant said.
The victim underwent surgery Tuesday afternoon at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray and was reported to be in critical condition. By Tuesday evening, his condition had been upgraded to "critical but stable," according to Carriger.
The 14-year-old boy suspected of shooting the older teen was taken into police custody on the school's campus and later booked into the Salt Lake County Juvenile Detention Center for investigation of attempted murder, as well as felony discharge of a firearm causing serious bodily injury. Police say he is a student at Union Middle School.
Police say the two teens were involved in a confrontation on the far north end of school property. The boys "got into an argument," according to Carriger.
"The argument led to a shooting," he said.
It was not immediately known what the argument was about.
The school was placed on temporary lockdown a little after 3 p.m. The bell to end the school day rings at 2:50 p.m. The lockdown was lifted within the hour.
Students and teachers who remained in the building followed lockdown procedures and were taken to a "secure location," Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney said. Eventually they were told to evacuate the school. Police officers searched the school before the lockdown was lifted.
Carriger said officers were interviewing "several dozen" students who witnessed the shooting.
"This has become a very time-consuming component of the investigation," he said.
Veronica Hildenbrand said her 13-year-old son witnessed the shooting. He told her the younger teen shot the victim once, then moved closer to him and shot him a second time at point-blank range.
When she arrived at the school, Hildenbrand said she initially worried that her son may have been injured.
"They were trying to confirm whether or not it was my son who was in the ambulance," she said.
Hildenbrand later learned her son was still inside the school being interviewed by police.
She said her son has been bullied by the suspected shooter in the past, and she is considering moving him to another school.
"The gang problem has gotten out of control," Hildenbrand said.
Carriger said he is unaware of problems at the school being "anything more excessive than (what) have traditionally gone on."
"This is the first actual shooting at a school that I can remember" in Sandy, he said.
Carriger didn't have any information Tuesday about a possible motive for the shooting or whether the boys knew each other. The victim was a junior at Hillcrest High School, Haney said.
Hillcrest student Jasen Trotter said he witnessed the fight from about 15 feet away. The two boys appear to have planned their encounter beforehand and met just minutes after the school day ended, he said.
Trotter described how one of the boys unexpectedly pulled out a gun, shot the victim and then shot him again while he was on the ground.
"It just happened so fast," he said.
The shooter, who Trotter said is one of his friends, fell to the ground crying after the shots were fired, he said.
Trotter called his mother immediately following the shooting, and she drove to the school and picked him up. He said he never would have imagined his friend would shoot someone.
"I don't know anything about how he got the gun. … I couldn't believe it. In fact, I was speechless," he said. "Everybody just started crying, trying to realize what had just happened."
The Canyons School District announced it would be providing students with crisis counselors at the school for the rest of the week.
"We have full confidence in the Sandy Police Department, which is conducting a thorough investigation and will continue to provide extra security at our schools," the district said in a statement. "In addition, teachers and administrators will maintain a visible presence in school hallways between classes to monitor activity and positively engage with students."
Contributing: Brianna Bodily, Nicole Vowell