Troutdale, Oregon - The teenage gunman who killed a classmate at an Oregon high school on Tuesday was armed with a military-style rifle and a semi-automatic pistol obtained from his home and lacked any known connection to his victim, police said on Wednesday.
Police said an autopsy of the suspect, Jared Michael Padgett, 15, confirmed that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after exchanging fire with police inside Reynolds High School in Troutdale, a Portland suburb.
The shooting, which ended with Padgett's body being found in a bathroom stall of the gymnasium building, marked the third outbreak of deadly gun violence to shake a US high school or college campus in less than three weeks.
Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson declined at a news conference to offer an explanation for what may have driven Padgett to walk into a boy's locker room and shoot a fellow freshman, 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman.
“We have not established any link between the student and shooter,” Anderson said. “At this time it would be inappropriate to discuss a motive.”
But he credited a school gym teacher, Todd Rispler, with preventing further loss of life. Rispler was grazed by gunfire as he encountered Padgett, but made his way to the school office to warn administrators of the attack and initiate a lockdown, Anderson said.
Anderson said Padgett opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle and also was carrying a semi-automatic handgun that he did not use, as well as a large knife and nine loaded ammunition magazines with a capacity for several hundred rounds.
The youth arrived at the school on Tuesday morning by school bus, carrying a guitar case and a duffel bag. When confronted in the locker room by the teacher, the boy wore a vest used for carrying ammunition and other items and a camouflage-coloured athletic helmet, Anderson said.
“The shooter obtained the weapons from his family home,” the chief said. “The weapons had been secured, but he defeated the security measures.”
Police have not said whether the firearms were legally owned or registered by family members.
A statement released by Hoffman's family described him as an avid soccer player who also enjoyed science and history and whose laughter was infectious. “You couldn't be around Emilio without laughing,” his mother, Jennifer, wrote.
The Portland Oregonian newspaper reported that Padgett was active in the Mormon church as well as the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, with a strong interest in guns and aspirations to follow his older brother into the military.
One fellow member of his JROTC class, Agustin Guzman, 16, told the newspaper that Padgett had a rigid side.
“He was one of those organised people who liked order, liked everything to be really perfect,” he said, recounting that Padgett became “really irritated if we messed up” when folding the American flag.
Another friend, Kaylah Ensign, recalled Padgett losing his temper when other disagreed with him during a class presentation on a book he read about Adolf Hitler. - Reuters