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Students involved in shooting planned after-school fight, police say

(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)


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SANDY — The two students involved in a shooting in a field on the campus of Union Middle School Tuesday had planned to fight each other after school.

"It sounds like there has been an ongoing conflict between these two and they were going to meet after school," Sandy Police Lt. Dean Carriger said Wednesday.

But according to a Facebook post from a relative of the boy who was shot, no one expected weapons to be used.

"They were supposed to fistfight and the kid pulled a gun."

About 3 p.m. Tuesday, on the northern end of the school grounds, 615 E. 8000 South, a 14-year-old boy from Union Middle School shot a 16-year-old boy twice, according to police.

Police have not named the gunman or the victim, but numerous posts on social media have identified the injured teen as Joshua Cordova, a junior at Hillcrest High School.

Several social media posts indicate that Joshua was shot once in the head, and then shot a second time after he fell to the ground. He was taken to Intermountain Medical Center where he remained in "critical but stable" condition Wednesday, according to Carriger. Joshua had undergone surgery at least twice, according to Facebook posts.

"For anyone wondering, we've been at the hospital for a while and Josh got out of surgery and he's been asleep for most of the night, but he apparently pulled through the surgery just fine. Love you Joshua. We know you'll pull through this homie," one boy wrote on Facebook.

Carriger said it could still be a few days before doctors know Joshua's long-term prognosis.

The alleged shooter, who witnesses say collapsed to the ground and cried after the shots were fired, was taken into custody at the scene and booked into the juvenile detention center. Formal charges are expected to be screened against the 14-year-old later this week.

A large group of students were present when the two met for the prearranged meeting after school. Dozens of students have been interviewed by detectives, Carriger said, and more came forward Wednesday.

Based on interviews with witnesses, Carriger said some students found out the 14-year-old had a gun right before he pulled it out. He said they didn't have enough time to inform police or school administrators. It was still unknown Wednesday whether the boy had the gun with him at school all day.

Detectives are investigating how the student came to be in possession of the gun, he said.

Union Middle School Principal Kelly Tauteoli said the mood at the school on Wednesday was calm. That wasn't the case Tuesday afternoon when "a student came running up into the office saying, 'Someone is shooting,'" she recalled.

Administrators and students immediately ran out to the area where the shooting occurred.

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There was extra police presence at the school Wednesday, both as a precaution and to give parents and students reassurance. Still, Tauteoli said some parents opted to keep their children home from school on Wednesday.

Tauteoli stressed to KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show" that despite comments that have been made on social media, "We do not have a gang problem here." She also said incidents of bullying and violence are rare at the school.

Counselors were also at Hillcrest High School Wednesday, said Principal Gregory Leavitt. Administrators met with faculty and then visited every classroom to make sure all students were aware that support is available.

"Please know that your safety and security is our No. 1 priority. You may notice a few extra officers on campus and the presence of counseling teams who are available to help any student who is dealing with difficult emotions," was part of a statement administrators read to all first-period classes. "This is an opportunity for us to unite and lean on one another. If you see friends who are struggling, please know that we’re here for you."

Later, an email was sent to all Hillcrest parents stating in part: "We feel strongly this was an isolated incident and is not reflective of our students at HHS or Union Middle. We have full confidence in the Sandy police, who are conducting a thorough investigation and will continue to provide security at our school. Extra police presence has been requested, if only to ease the minds of students, parents, teachers or staff."

Leavitt said the students were signing notes for the injured teen.

"We are sending that student a message through kids signing Post-it notes on a big paper and sending it to the hospital tomorrow," he said.

By miday, there were already 100 to 200 notes written to Joshua.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, several friends were also writing notes of condolences and encouragement to the shot boy.

"I wish this never happened to you. It hurts to think that you could've been gone. I'm so happy you aren't though, heaven doesn't need another angel just yet," wrote one person.

"Make a speedy recovery, much love," wrote another.

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Pat Reavy

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