Colorado student who shot two school administrators had been on probation for a weapons charge

Austin Lyle was arrested in 2021 after classmates at his former high school flagged his posts about guns on social media.

Law enforcement officials investigate the crime scene Wednesday at East High School in Denver. Hyoung Chang / Denver Post via Getty Images

The Colorado high school student  who shot and injured two school administrators after they discovered his gun during a mandatory pat down had been on probation for a weapons charge, a law enforcement source said Thursday. 

Austin Lyle, 17, who shot two deans at Denver East High School on Wednesday, was arrested on a weapons charge in 2021 shortly before he was expelled from Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado, the source said. 

Classmates at Overland High School flagged posts about guns on Lyle’s social media, prompting police to visit his parents’ home, the source said. His parents let the officers in and they found a rifle with a “high capacity magazine and a silencer” in his room. Lyle was charged with a felony but the court dropped the charge and instead put him on one-year probation for the incident, the source said.

A representative for Cherry Creek School District said Lyle was “disciplined for violating board policy” during the 2021-2022 school year and consequently “removed from Overland High School.” It is unclear if the weapons incident was the violation.

Lyle then began attending Denver East High School and was bound by a “safety plan” which stated that he agreed to be patted down every morning, Denver police said.

The teen opened fire on two school staffers after they discovered a gun during his Wednesday morning pat down. Lyle was found dead in a nearby county following the incident, authorities said. Park County Coroner David Kintz Jr. said the results of a preliminary autopsy indicate Lyle died as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

It is unclear if Lyle’s previous weapons’ charge prompted his safety plan. Both the Denver Public School District and the Cherry Creek School District declined to provide details about Lyle’s safety plan, citing privacy for minors under state and federal law.

Safety plans are very common in schools and, depending on the size, schools can have hundreds of these plans for students at any time, said John McDonald, chief operating officer for the Council for School Safety Leadership, a national organization focused on helping school governance teams prepare for and react to significant school crises.

It is a “behavioral contract” between the student, the parents and the school put together after a threat assessment based either on past behavior or present threat, McDonald said. 

“The safety plan really lays out what the expectations are for the student and it spells out what the student can and can’t do and it tells the student what the school is going to do,” he said. 

Safety plans can include things like mandatory pat downs for drugs or other items, supervised bathroom visits or random backpack searches, McDonald said. “It’s up to the school to follow through with that each and every day in order to affect a good climate culture, good safety within the school and protecting all the other kids,” he added.

Students at Denver East High School said they were still processing how Wednesday’s shooting came to be, less than a month after another student was shot while sitting in his car outside of the school. 

“The main focus should be why did this student have a gun and what was making him turn to this violence,” said Clara Taub, a Denver East High school sophomore and volunteer with the school’s Students Demand Action organization, a national advocacy group fighting gun violence. “Clearly he had a history of this. He was expelled from Overland High School and was sent to East High School, but clearly this student needed more support that he was not getting.”