Teen-ager takes his own life

Police confirmed that Darren James Price, the 13-year-old former student who shot himself in the woods east of Dowagiac Middle School, has died. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Police confirmed that Darren James Price, the 13-year-old former student who shot himself in the woods east of Dowagiac Middle School, has died. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Police confirmed that Darren James Price, the 13-year-old former student who shot himself in the woods east of Dowagiac Middle School, has died.

Public Safety Director Tom Atkinson said a deputy sheriff parked on Dailey Road, north of Mathews Street, observed an individual fitting the description come out on a trail.

“As soon as the individual saw the officer,” Atkinson said at a press conference at Council on Aging’s Front Street Crossing, “he turned and ran back up the trail. A short time later a shot was heard. Officers proceeded up the trail and found the victim lying on the side of the trail. He immediately started administering first aid. Pride Care ambulance was called. He was transported to Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital here in Dowagiac and later passed away from his injuries.”

“Every indication is that he was acting alone,” Atkinson said. “Investigation continues into the motivation. At this time we don’t have a definite answer of why he was there or what he intended to do. We may never know why.

Police recovered the handgun at the scene. Atkinson said the gun “came from the family. The weapon was taken or stolen during the night. It was small caliber with three bullets. It wasn’t high-capacity. He fired once. Every indication is that he had no experience or background in firearms.”

“Our hearts go out to the family and his siblings,” Supt. Dr. Mark Daniel said.

Darren, who would have turned 14 June 23, had a brother and a sister.

“He was a student with us last year,” the superintendent said. “He was not, nor were his siblings, students this year. Our understanding is that he was home-schooled. We haven’t had contact with him for an entire year. He was a sixth grader at the middle school last year. He would have been a seventh grader this year.”

“I want to thank my staff and the police department. We went to immediate lockdown when the principal feared the student had a handgun. At that time in the morning our secondary students are beginning to arrive, on buses primarily. The police department put up a barricade on Riverside Drive that will now be lifted. During that lockdown, we started investigating and, working with the police department, decided to close school for the remainder of the day.”

When classes resume Tuesday, Daniel said, “We will go through precautionary steps. We’ve asked the police department to have additional officers there for us, primarily to comfort our parents and to assure our students that they are safe. I want to thank our police, both city and countywide, and our neighboring districts for their assistance. I want to thank my transportation department for their immediate response. We placed our students in a holding pattern until we could resolve this. School will be in session (Tuesday) with additional counselors volunteered by neighboring districts.”

Daniel was meeting with his administrative team and police at 1 p.m. “to make sure we’re ready for school tomorrow morning.”

The incident closed all six schools — four elementaries, DMS and Union High School, affecting 2,300 students.

Daniel said a waiver has been applied for to the state so the district does not have to make up the day.

 

“This matter has been handled properly, not only by law enforcement, but also the school system,” Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said. “Investigation will continue just to make sure it’s thoroughly investigated.”

At 6:40 a.m. a custodian confronted a subject and called 911.

The person, who appeared to have a handgun, headed into the woods.

Officers arrived and set up a perimeter to attempt to locate the individual.

Fitz said, “Information in these types of incidents is always helpful before, during and after an episode such as this. We encourage anyone, whether  a student or a member of the public, to call our tip line if you do have further information” at 1-800-462-9328.

 

 

 

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