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A 14-year-old boy shot a teacher and two young pupils, one of whom was critically wounded, at a South Carolina elementary school Wednesday, and his father was later found dead by the suspect's grandmother at a nearby home, authorities said.
One of the injured boys, identified as Jacob Hall, was still listed in critical condition Thursday morning at Greenville Health System Children's Hospital. No further details, including Jacob's age, were provided. The teacher, a woman later identified as Meghan Hollingsworth, and the other boy were treated and released from a hospital.
The suspect, who officials said was home-schooled, was taken into custody without incident on the grounds of Townville Elementary School at 1:45 p.m. by a 30-year veteran of the Townville Volunteer Fire Department, authorities said.
The 14-year-old boy drove up to the school, which is in Townville about 35 miles southwest of Greenville, and immediately began firing shots with a handgun, Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper said. He shot all of his victims on the playground and wasn't able to enter the school itself because teachers made sure to lock the doors, officials said.
Almost simultaneously, investigators were called to a home about 3 miles away, where the body of Jeffrey Dewitt Osborne, 47, the suspect's father, had been discovered by Osborne's mother, who lives next door, authorities said Wednesday night.
Osborne's mother got a cellphone call from her grandson — the suspect — but "she could not make out what he was saying because he was crying and upset," Anderson County Coroner Greg Shore said. She went next door to the boy's home, where she believed him to have been calling from, and found Osborne, who had been shot to death, Shore said.
Authorities didn't say whether Osborne was shot by his son, adding that the "relevance" of Osborne's death remained under investigation. Any relationship between the shooter and the victims at the school remained unclear, authorities said.
Skipper said that he didn't know whether the same weapon was used at both scenes and that investigators had no lead on a possible motive.
The firefighter who subdued the boy, Jamie Brock, a 30-year veteran of the Townville Volunteer Fire Department, was hailed as a hero for preventing him from firing more shots and for taking him down without using any weapons of his own.
At an emotional news conference Thursday, Townville fire chief Billy McAdams described how he and Brock “raced to the school to try and help” after confirming there was a shooter at the school playground.
McAdams said he went inside the school to help the injured, while Brock went down the sidewalk outside the back of the school to investigate.
Once inside, the fire chief and a school nurse attended to Jacob and the other injured boy as teacher Meghan Hollingsworth told them “to take care of Jacob and not worry about her,” McAdams said.
McAdams and the nurse continued to assist Jacob until he was flown out for immediate treatment for his injuries, he said.
As he helped the wounded, Brock was still searching outside the building, McAdams said.
When Brock made his way around the rear corner of the building, he spotted the suspect a short distance away, McAdams said.
“Feeling that it was imperative to the safety of the students, the teachers and all the responders that were onsite, he immediately confronted and subdued that shooter,” McAdams said, adding that Brock was able to keep the suspect on the ground until law enforcement took him into custody.
Scott Stoller, director of the county's Emergency Medical Services, said Brock refused to accept praise for his actions because he insisted that he'd done "nothing no other firefighter wouldn't have been done."
But "Firefighter Brock is absolutely a hero to those of us in the community," Stoller said.
The school, meanwhile, was swarmed with rescue workers and armed officers, some of whom escorted children by bus to a nearby church, where frantic parents met them, some of them fighting tears.
"I just pray for those families. I pray for those kids," Jamie Meredith told NBC affiliate WYFF of Greenville after she was reunited with her daughter, adding: "I'm just so scared. I don't even want her to go to school now."
Skipper told NBC News on Wednesday night that the shooting drove home the reality that school violence could happen anywhere, even in a small rural community like Townville, population 3,900.
"You try to make it comfortable in your community, [but] things can happen," Skipper said. "You see them across the country, but you're always thinking ... 'Well, it will never happen here.'"
"I think we see across the country that you can't say it will never happen here," he said.