Colorado School Shooter Karl Pierson Entered Through Door Left Unlocked


Colorado school shooter Karl Pierson, 18, was able to enter Arapahoe High School through an unlocked door that should have been locked, but had been left propped open.  After entering the school, Pierson shot fellow student Claire Davis, 17.  Davis later died of her injuries.  Pierson killed himself before he was captured.

Pierson walked into the school, located in Centennial, Colorado, carrying a 12-gauge shotgun legally purchased on Dec. 6 after passing a background check; Molotov cocktails, over 100 shotgun shells that he had bought that morning, and a machete.  The Arapahoe County Sheriff, Grayson Robinson, reported on Monday that upon entering the school, Pierson “made no attempt to conceal the fact that he was armed.”  Robinson added that the door through which Pierson entered was rarely locked because it was “more convenient for people to come and go from that area and not have to be obstructed by a locked door.”

Police believe that Pierson went to the school looking for Tracy Morgan, the librarian and debate coach, with whom he was angry after having been disciplined by Morgan.  Morgan was able to escape the building unharmed before Pierson could find him.

Robinson would not definitively state if the deadly 80-second shooting at Colorado’s Arapahoe High School on Dec. 13 would have been prevented had the door not been left unlocked, but he did state that Karl Pierson was “hell-bent” on his goal  to kill as many people as he could, suggesting his belief that a locked door would not have been a deterrent.  Throughout the press conference, Robinson refused to utter Karl Pierson’s name, instead describing him in terms such as “murderer” and “shooter.”

While inside the school, Pierson fired three rounds from his shotgun.  He also started a small fire with a Molotov cocktail that burned several bookcases in the library. The only person shot in the attack, Claire Davis, was sitting outside of the library with a friend when she was shot point-blank in the face.  Davis died on Dec. 22 after having been in a coma since being shot.  There is no evidence that Pierson targeted Davis specifically.

Pierson shot and killed himself inside the library before the school’s armed deputy, James Englert, reached him.  Robinson credits Englert with saving an unknown amount of lives by rushing to the library in order to approach Pierson.  The family of Claire Davis, honoring his heroic actions, also requested that Englert serve as a pallbearer at her funeral on Saturday.

When his body was examined, it was discovered that Pierson had written five locations within Arapahoe High on his arm as well as a phrase in Latin that means “The die has been cast.”

The Dec. 13 attack immediately drew comparisons to the student-led massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.  Columbine is located just 8 miles from Centennial.  Adding to the comparisons between the two Colorado school shootings are reports that Karl Pierson went bowling before driving to the school and entering through the door left unlocked.  It has been reported that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the two shooters in the Columbine massacre, also went bowling before attacking their school.  The investigation into the shooting at Arapahoe High School continues.

By Jennifer Pfalz


Chicago Tribune

Salt Lake Tribune


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