UPDATE: A 19-year-old high school student has been charged with first-degree murder, RCMP said Tuesday. For the latest, visit Tuesday’s story.
A teenage girl died Monday after being stabbed that morning by a fellow classmate inside a school in Leduc, south of Edmonton.
The violent incident happened at Christ the King School, which is part of the Saint Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic Schools division.
“It was like, ‘lockdown, lockdown, this is not a drill,'” student Aidan Weir said about the terrifying ordeal. Locked in his classroom, he heard the chaos unfold.
“There was like, lots of running around, screaming and shouting — lots of cop cars. It was pretty freaky.”
RCMP said it responded to the school following a 911 call about a violent assault at 9:58 a.m.
STARS Air Ambulance was dispatched about 15 minutes later, landing beside the school. The 17-year-old victim was treated and airlifted to the University of Alberta Hospital in critical condition, where she shortly succumbed to her injuries.
A 19-year-old male suspect, who allegedly fled the school following the incident, was arrested at 12:20 p.m. in a nearby neighbourhood.
The fatal attack is now being investigated as a homicide.
“This is a true tragedy,” said Insp. Dale Kendall, the detachment commander of the Leduc RCMP.
“It is incomprehensible that an act such as this could happen here in our close-knit community of Leduc.
“This is life-altering for the family and friends of the deceased, the youth and staff at Christ the King, and for our entire community,” she said.
Kendall said the 19-year-old suspect is a student at Christ the King and knew the victim, but did not elaborate on their relationship.
“They were known to each other,” she said.
“It happened inside the school in one of the classrooms.”
Kendall said that the arrest of the suspect occurred “without incident” and Alberta RCMP’s major crimes unit has now taken over the investigation.
Classes cancelled Tuesday, trauma support brought in
A trauma team has been brought in for the students at Christ the King, which has about 350 students in Grades 9 to 12. The flag has been lowered in front of the school.
Classes at Christ the King School will be cancelled on Tuesday, March 16, but the building will remain open for any students who wish to access support services.
STAR Catholic School Division issued a statement Monday afternoon, saying it was deeply saddened to report the death of a student.
“This loss will be felt deeply across the Christ the King School community, and across our Division as a whole,” superintendent Charlie Bouchard said.
“We cannot express deeply enough the sorrow we feel for the family members, friends, and staff members who have lost a loved one today, and whose lives will be forever changed.”
The trauma support team will remain on site for the remainder of the week, the school division said.
“As one connected faith community, we ask that God grant strength to all those who are suffering, and pray they find solace and healing through Christ,” board chair Michelle Lamer said.
STAR Catholic School Division said it understood there are questions and requests for additional information, however it may be unable to comment further due to the nature of the event and the ongoing RCMP investigation.
All schools in Leduc on alert following incident
A large RCMP response was initiated following the incident, including police dogs, officers in the air, and help from the forensics and major crimes units.
A Global News crew encountered closed roads and a police presence on the south side of Leduc in the Robinson neighbourhood Monday afternoon, close to where Christ the King High School is located.
All schools in the area were locked down or placed in a hold and secure following the stabbing, Leduc Mayor Bob Young told The Canadian Press.
STAR Catholic Schools said Christ the King was put in lockdown, while its other schools in Leduc were placed in a hold and secure.
Black Gold School Division superintendent Bill Romanchuk said the public school board was informed by STAR Catholic Schools of the violent incident on Monday morning.
“We mobilized our emergency response protocols and, at the direction of the RCMP, put all of our schools in Leduc on a hold and secure as a precaution,” Romanchuk said in a statement to Global News.
Both Black Gold schools and STAR Catholic Schools lifted its lockdown and hold and secures after the suspect was arrested.
Hold and secures occur when there’s a threat in the general vicinity of a school, but not on or close to school property. Examples might include a crime in progress, police pursuit or search in the same neighbourhood as the school.
The school’s outer doors are locked during a hold and secure but classes continue as normal inside. Students are safe are generally considered safe so long as they don’t venture outside.
A lockdown is a more extreme procedure, when a threat is near or inside a school.
Condolences pour in from officials
As news of the girl’s death became public, officials from all levels of government began to express their condolences.
“I share in the grief of all the family and friends of the high school student whose life was taken in Leduc today,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney tweeted.
“What a terrible tragedy.”
Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange also issued a statement on the fatal attack, saying she was “heartbroken to hear of the tragic loss of one of our high school students today, in a violent attack on school grounds.”
Opposition leader Rachel Notley also tweeted, saying she was at a loss for words at the senseless loss of life.
Leduc Mayor Bob Young also expressed his condolences and thanked the Leduc RCMP, STAR Catholic School Division and Black Gold School Division “for their prompt and effective response to this devastating event, and for their diligence in keeping our students and community safe.”
“We are grateful to the RCMP for their decisive leadership at this difficult time, and will continue to provide our full cooperation and support to this investigation.”
Officials shared the following mental health resources:
- Mental Health Helpline 24-7 at 1-877-303-2642.
- Kids Help Phone any time by texting CONNECT to 686868.
- Leduc Family and Community Support Services at 780-980-7109
- Leduc & District Victim Services at 780-980-7232
“We know that these traumatic incidents can have a significant effect on students, staff and families, and we offer our ongoing support to all those involved,” Young said.
Bill Blair, the federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, tweeted his condolences to the victim’s family and friends and said he was “deeply saddened by the tragic death.”
Archbishop Richard Smith of the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton said he was stunned and heartbroken to learn of the fatal incident, adding his prayers go out to the family, friends, faculty, and community impacted by the senseless tragedy.
“May God grant strength healing to all.”
The Alberta Teachers’ Association, which represents educators across the province, also issued the following statement:
Leduc is about 20 kilometres south of Edmonton.
Saint Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic School Division has 12 schools in Beaumont, Drayton Valley, Lacombe, Leduc, Ponoka, and Wetaskiwin There are more than 4,000 students in the division.
— With files from Global News’ Allison Bench and Steve Morales, and The Canadian Press