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Released documents shed new light on what happened the day of the Rigby Middle School shooting

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RIGBY — The morning of May 6, 2021, was fairly typical for those at Rigby Middle School.

It was shortly before 9, and everyone was getting settled. Most of the students were inside their classrooms, and teachers were beginning to start class.

One teacher let several groups of students outside to start filming videos for a creativity class. Other kids were outside or in the hallways practicing skits. A few students were traveling between classrooms in the hallways.

But everyone stopped what they were doing in confusion when the loud popping noises started. The recollections of many students and teachers were recorded by police during interviews on the day of the Rigby Middle School shooting.

Those documents were recently released as part of a public records lawsuit EastIdahoNews.com filed earlier this year. Until now, information about the shooting and events that day have been off-limits to the public. The Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office initially argued that these should be sealed because the shooter was a minor. EastIdahoNews.com objected and argued the public has a right to know what happened that day.

RELATED | Why EastIdahoNews.com is suing for public records about a school shooting

District Judge Stevan H. Thompson ruled on our behalf and issued an order that the records should be released with the names of everyone except law enforcement redacted. EastIdahoNews.com received over 120 pages Friday, and the information in this report comes from those documents.

RELATED | Judge rules on East Idaho News petition, orders release of redacted school shooting documents

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Parents gather outside of Rigby Middle School after a shooting on May 6, 2021. | EastIdahoNews.com file photo

The attack

Many teachers and students didn’t immediately recognize the sound of the first gunshot. Some teachers thought it might be a large piece of metal falling, malfunctioning construction equipment or even a firecracker set off by mischievous seniors at the nearby high school.

It wasn’t until the second and third shots that most realized the school was under attack.

Inside the hallway of the school, a 12-year-old girl dressed mostly in black with a black surgical mask had spent the morning wandering the hallways. She’d stopped into a classroom, left, and briefly went into the counselor’s office and had a seemingly ordinary interaction with staff members.

She left the office, and according to a closed-circuit video reviewed by officers, she traveled to the bathrooms on the southeast side of the building. There, she appeared to take her backpack off and removed a semi-automatic pistol.

The school counselors told police the gunshots began about five minutes after the sixth-grader left the office.

Not long after the shots started — and likely in response to calls from numerous staff — the school initiated a lockdown.

Due to redactions in the investigative documents, it’s not clear whom the first gunshots were aimed at or if specific people were being targeted.

However, from previous EastIdahoNews.com reporting, we know the names of some of the staff involved.

Jim Wilson, the school’s janitor, was the first person shot. He was standing at the intersection of a hallway when he was shot in the leg. He fell and a school counselor helped him into the counseling office, where other school employees administered first aid.

The next person to be shot was a girl leaving a bathroom very close to the armed student and not far from where the janitor had been hit. The victim didn’t know what the armed student was holding, but when she heard a gunshot, she started running. She turned to see if she was being followed, and the armed student was behind her.

“She heard a bang, and her arm went numb,” according to police reports. She had been shot in the elbow. Witnesses say she staggered and fell. The armed student ran away in another direction.

A teacher looked out his window, saw the hurt student and motioned for her to come into his classroom. The teacher bandaged her up while guarding the door, armed with a baseball bat.

At this point, investigative documents show most of the teachers in the immediate vicinity had gone into lockdown mode. Doors were locked, lights were off and students were trying to be quiet.

The lockdown wasn’t universal, though. One teacher — Krista Gneiting — started to put her kids into lockdown after the first gunshot, and before the school initiated a lockdown. She told police that she had a sudden feeling come over her to get her kids out of the building and to the nearby Rigby High School.

“So I just told my students, ‘We are going to leave, we’re going to run to the high school, you’re going to run hard, you’re not going to look back and now is the time to get up and go,’” Gneiting told ABC News in May 2021.

RELATED | Rigby teacher breaks her silence about shooting: ‘After I got the gun, I just pulled her into a hug’

Unbeknownst to them, the armed student was in the area and apparently followed the students out of the building.

There were more gunshots, and a boy was shot outside the building. He was hit in the thigh and hand — possibly by the same bullet.

When Gneiting went outside, she noticed students who were not from her class — including the injured boy, who was limping. At the time, groups of students were outside trying to get to the district offices, the high school and even to a nearby dental office.

The wounded student told Gneiting he had been shot, and she grabbed his hand and put it over her shoulder.

That’s when she saw the shooter and the gun.

“When (Gneiting) went outside, she remembers looking around for the shooter,” the report says. “She looked right over her three times. She did not picture her as a threat.”

When she saw the weapon, she stopped and approached the armed student. Gneiting asked if she could have the gun.

“It was a little girl, and my brain couldn’t quite grasp that,” Gneiting told ABC News. “I just knew when I saw that gun, I had to get the gun. I just walked up to her, and I put my hand over her hand, I just slowly pulled the gun out of her hand and she allowed me to. … I just pulled her into a hug because I thought, ‘This little girl has a mom somewhere that doesn’t realize she’s having a breakdown and she’s hurting people.’”

Gneiting hugged the shooter and talked with her until law enforcement arrived at the scene.

RELATED | Teacher who disarmed school shooter gets standing ovation during State of the State address

Rigby Middle School shooting
EastIdahoNews.com file photo

The arrest

At 9:12 a.m., Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy McRae had just passed Rigby High School and Rigby Middle School as he drove to a call in Roberts. Dispatchers radioed they had received multiple 911 calls about shots being fired at Rigby Middle School.

McRae flipped around and headed to the middle school. He came into the parking lot and saw people pointing and waving. As he drove farther into the lot, he saw a woman hugging a girl. Nearby, he saw a wounded boy lying on the ground being tended to by two teachers.

The woman — Gneiting — told McRae that she was holding the shooter and had taken away the gun. McRae quickly moved to secure the 9mm pistol in his patrol vehicle. He then checked on the injured boy, and other law enforcement arrived to help with the child.

McRae took the shooter into custody, patted her down and placed her in the back of his patrol vehicle. During this exchange, McRae learned that a second pistol was inside the shooter’s backpack inside the school.

RELATED | School shooter could face attempted murder charges; doctor says condition of victims is an ‘absolute blessing’

Detective Jason Pettingill arrived next and took over the situation. He asked the shooter multiple times if she was working alone. She said there was no one else.

He also asked if there were any other weapons they needed to know about. The shooter confirmed that she had one more gun, two knives and a torch in her backpack. While being interviewed, she emphasized that she had a torch and that it wasn’t a bomb.

“That raised concern to me why (the shooter) would say bomb when I never mentioned it,” Pettingill wrote in his report. “I advised the patrol sergeant who was doing the building search about what (the shooter) stated about the bomb.”

Nothing in documents indicates any sort of explosive was ever found or used during the attack.

The shooter did continue to talk about bombs, though. In his report, Pettingill said while en route to the sheriff’s office, the shooter “told me she was trying to make three bombs Friday to blow up the school, but she was caught.” He pressed her for more information and learned that she was trying to make bombs at her house, but had been stopped by her father.

At some point, Pettingill spoke with the shooter’s father. The father said he had caught his daughter with kerosene and warned her to be careful because the stuff could burn and blow up the house. Pettingill said that she was probably in the process of making bombs. The father appears to have told Pettingill that he never found anything that could have been a completed bomb.

Later on, Pettingill reviewed footage of each individual getting shot. Based on that, the shooter was arrested on three counts of attempted murder.

All three victims were transported to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center to be treated for their wounds. All of them recovered.

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EastIdahoNews.com file photo

Home investigation

Later in the day, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office obtained a search warrant for the juvenile shooter’s home in Idaho Falls.

The discussion about bombs was concerning enough that the Idaho Falls Regional Bomb Squad was activated to help perform a sweep of the house.

The majority of the home revealed nothing of evidentiary value or of danger, according to law enforcement records.

RELATED | Bomb squad in Idaho Falls neighborhood in connection to school shooting

However, during the search of the shooter’s room, deputies noticed a large container that held four 1-liter Arrowhead water bottles with what appeared to be a string fuse attached to some of them “as if it was the makings of an explosive device,” documents show.

Additionally, the shooter’s notes and paperwork were gathered at the scene, which included a hit list of students, and detailed information regarding the motive for the attack. EastIdahoNews.com has chosen not to detail or publish any of these documents as they are graphic, disturbing and very private, but they indicate the shooter was being bullied by other students, which led to her wanting to lash out against them.

The search of the house also revealed a locked room and a gun safe where firearms were kept. They discovered two slots inside where the pistols were likely taken and found additional ammunition identical to that used at the school shooting. The documents don’t make clear how the shooter accessed the firearms.

Unanswered questions

The release of investigative documents has provided a much clearer picture of what happened on May 6, 2021, but there are still a number of unanswered questions.

Since the case dealt with a juvenile, the majority of court records remain sealed from public view. We do know that this case has made its way fully through the court system, but it’s unknown what the shooter was ultimately charged with, if there was any sort of plea deal or what her sentence is.

EastIdahoNews.com has a hearing later this month to determine if information about the shooter’s court case will be made public.

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