EDINBURG, Texas (AP) — Authorities suspect hunters may have shot two South Texas middle school students who were wounded by gunfire Monday afternoon while trying out for a basketball team.
Two boys – ages 13 and 14 – were shot, said Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino. Classes were not in session at Harwell Middle School when the shooting happened around 4:45 p.m., but the school complex was immediately placed on lockdown. Edinburg school district spokesman Gilbert Tagle said a number of after-school activities were going on besides the basketball tryouts, including a concert and a faculty meeting. He estimated as many as 200 children could have been on campus.
One of the wounded boys was in critical condition Monday night with a bullet embedded in an organ. The other was stable and awaiting X-rays, Trevino said.
At the time of the shooting, one of the boys was going for a layup. The other was waiting his turn to try out, Trevino said.
The sheriff said it was too early to say whether the students were targeted or if the shooting was accidental.
Investigators believe the shots may have come from hunters on adjacent farm property, Trevino said. The shots did not come from the campus and were not a result of a drive-by, he said.
Harwell Middle School opened just this year on the rural property northeast of Edinburg, which is about 50 miles northwest of Brownsville. Homes line the road approaching the school, but open fields stretch out behind it and to the north.
Investigators have spoken with owners of surrounding farms and the land was being leased to deer hunters, Trevino said. Authorities interviewed some hunters who were found on adjoining properties.
The outdoor court where the shooting took place was north of the school complex at an athletic facility that includes a football field, track and tennis courts, said Oziel Garcia, a 14-year-old eighth-grader.
Annette Vargas Ugalde, a 15-year-old eighth grader, said she was about to board her bus near the gym after school when school officials started rushing students indoors.
“They told us to, `Get inside, get inside,'” she said.
She said she heard no shots but saw a group of people on the outdoor court standing near one boy on the ground. A school nurse tended to him while another boy was sitting up.
Annett said she boarded her bus and it left.
Samuel Cepeda, a 15-year-old eighth-grader, said gangs have been a problem at the school, and he has worried about security. However, Trevino said investigators do not believe the shooting was gang related.
Classes will go on as scheduled Tuesday, but with increased security and counselors available to speak with students, said Tagle, the district spokesman.