Substitute Teacher and Custodian Hailed Heroes After Gunman Opens Fire At School, Killing 2

William Atchison
William Atchison

A 21-year-old opened fire and then killed himself.

A substitute teacher and custodian are being called heroes after they helped saved lives when a gunman entered a New Mexico high school on Thursday, killing two students.

Casey Jordan-Marquez and Francisco Fernandez were both killed when 21-year-old William Atchison, who entered the school posing as a student, opened fire inside Aztec High School and then later turned the gun on himself.

San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen said Friday that more people may have been killed were it not for the "swift action" of custodian Thomas Hill, who pursued the gunman and yelled "lockdown" and "active shooter" through the hallways.

The staff quickly went into lockdown after the alert and those actions "saved a whole bunch of lives and a lot of devastation," police said. 

A 74-year-old substitute teacher, Katie Potter, also heard the gunshots in the building and barricaded her 17 students in the classroom’s office with a couch.

“I heard popping sounds down the hall, going pop, pop, pop. I looked in the hall and the custodian, Hill, was in the hall and he was saying, who are you? I could tell he was frantic and I knew what was going on,” Potter told reporters.

Police said the shooter came into the room where the students and Potter were and yelled “I know you are in there” before firing multiple rounds through walls. No one was hit.

“We're blessed the good Lord had his angels watching over those kids and that teacher,” Christesen said.

Fernandez had left Potter’s classroom that morning to go the bathroom and never came back, reports said. The shooter was allegedly inside the bathroom when Fernandez walked in. Atchison killed Marquez when he saw her in the hallway, police said.

Law enforcement arrived on the scene in less than one minute and were able to enter the school through windows and doors.

Authorities said the gunman had written a schedule for the day of the shooting that was later found at his home.

San Juan County Sheriff’s Office

Police also found a thumb drive that he carried with him that detailed his plans.

Atchison, who was a previously a student at the school, reportedly had no criminal history but was investigated by the FBI in 2016 after he made an online inquiry about where to find cheap assault rifles for a mass shooting.

Police said Atchison claimed he had made the post as an Internet troll and they ended the investigation.