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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

One year later: Area officials recall Van Buren shooting

Friday, October 17, 2008

On Oct. 18, 2007, shots were fired at the Van Buren Elementary School, 2075 E CR 1200 N, Brazil. Times Staff File Photo.
On Oct. 18, 2007, Clay County residents understood the fear connected with school violence when shots rang out at 12:48 p.m., and several bullets struck Van Buren Elementary.

"I really can't remember what my first thoughts where," VBE Principal Gail Williams recently told The Brazil Times. "I know I was shocked at seeing the shattered glass, but then I guess training does kick in and you realize what you need to do."

One of the shots pierced both glass cafeteria door windows on the west side of the building and lodged into the ceiling. Although the bullet caused no injuries, flying glass from the broken doors struck a male custodian in the eye.

Williams credited quick response from law enforcement agencies, the Corporation Crises Team and her staff for seeing everyone inside the school remained safe and calm for the rest of the day.

"The hours after the shooting just seem to blur together, she said. "I think the shock of the events that day started to wear off later that night when I was with my family. That's when a person starts thinking about the 'What ifs?'"

After the shooting, Williams said the school received a lot of support.

"I was amazed by the support of parents and community members during the weeks following the shooting," she said. "Local law enforcement agencies put in many extra man-hours patrolling VBE and being visible at school events. This helped parents and guardians feel secure about sending their child back to school. We had very few absentees after the shooting."

Although there was a calm atmosphere inside VBE, outside the school was a slightly different situation.

Within three-five minutes of the report by the school, several officers of the Clay County Sheriff's Department were securing the scene and began the preliminary stages of the investigation as state and federal authorities were racing to the school.

"When deputies Dan Best and Brad Hardey ran past my office door in the Justice Center yelling what happened, I thought to myself, this has to be a prank," Clay County Sheriff Department Chief Deputy Rob Gambill said. "There was a lot of initial disbelief about what was happening: Who would intentionally target school children? It's the type of call that, as law enforcement officers, you take very serious. There was no panic, but there was a huge sense of stress that day."

While officers were investigating the crime scene at Van Buren Elementary, members of the Brazil City Police Department were scrambling to provide additional security at the other elementary schools in Brazil. (Members of the Clay City Police Department were also dispatched to increased security at Clay City Elementary and Clay City Jr./Sr. High School and other sheriff's deputies were dispatched to Jackson Township Elementary.)

"We didn't initially go to VBE. Our detectives helped in the subsequent investigation. But, on that day, our job was to ensure the safety of students here," Police Chief Dave Archer said. "We increased patrols around the city schools. In the days afterward, we increased our presence by monitoring students when they arrived and left the schools. I think it helped calm everyone knowing that law enforcement officers were at the schools."

Witnesses allegedly saw two white male suspects fire the rounds from inside a black older model van traveling northbound on Harmony Road (County Road 200 East).

Apparently a van matching the same description was seen traveling southbound on Harmony Road on Oct. 17.

A local farmer reported seeing a similar "dull" black van with its side door open and some of the people inside sitting in the doorway with their feet hanging out.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a $5,000 reward. Officials hoped it would encourage people to provide more accurate information to help lead to the identification, capture and conviction of the individuals involved in the school shooting.

However, the suspects have eluded capture for a year, but not the attention of authorities.

"We still get information about this case, but not on as regular basis as right after the shooting incident," Gambill said. "The reward is still available."

According to Gambill, the case is and will remain an active investigation.

"This is a crime with no apparent motive or victim, which makes it difficult to investigate. We really need the public's assistance in this case," said. "Every little bit helps. We need tips and information to keep coming in. Someone out there knows what happened."

To report information in this case, contact Gambill at 812-446-2535 Ext. 5, or Indiana State Police Master Trooper Sam Stearley at 812-299-1153.

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i hope they find out who did this. my niece attended that school at the time and the man who was hurt by the flying glass was my relation.

-- Posted by piercings4_u on Sun, Oct 19, 2008, at 1:26 AM

Daniel, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies frequently monitor these types of web postings. Unless you want a visit from them, I'd refrain from making comments like this on a public forum. They may think you know something as Bart seems to conclude from your posting. But Bart does agree that more people have knowledge about this than have come forward.

-- Posted by bartpeterson24 on Mon, Oct 20, 2008, at 6:22 PM

I still pray as I did a year ago, that they find the people responsible for this action. My daughter (who was in 1st grade) attends Van Buren Elementary still today with PRIDE! It is a shame when even a year later, she asks me if someone is going to shoot at her & her friends today!

It really takes a person with a sick mind to commit an act such as this. What do innocent school age children do that could be so bad that they need to be scared out of their little minds because someone wants to be an idiot.

-- Posted by JQuick on Wed, Oct 22, 2008, at 10:56 PM

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