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Olathe East officials got tips that a student was bringing a gun to school

Tex Texin, flickr Creative Commons
flickr Creative Commons

A court document released on Wednesday provided new details about the March 4 shooting at Olathe East High School. The affidavit said that school officials wanted to search Jaylon Elmore's backpack before he allegedly started shooting.

Olathe East High School assistant principal Kaleb Stoppel pulled Jaylon Elmore out of a shop class on March 4 to ask whether the 18-year-old student had brought a gun to school.

Earlier, a student had tipped off school officials that someone on the bus had been bringing a gun to Olathe East, according to a law enforcement affidavit released Wednesday by the Johnson County District Court. The school was searching everyone involved, Stoppel told Elmore.

Elmore became defensive, moved his backpack from his back to his front and refused to let Stoppel search the backpack. Stoppel summoned Erik Clark, a school resource officer at Olathe East, to come to the office right away.

After Clark arrived, Elmore pulled a green handgun out of his bag and shot his gun about five times. Clark, who told investigators that he feared for his life, shot back at Elmore, causing the student to fall.

Stoppel tried to get the gun from Elmore and ended up on top of the student. Elmore started vomiting. Stoppel got off of Elmore and saw that Clark had been shot. Stoppel then realized he had been shot, too.

Elmore, who remains hospitalized in critical condition at Overland Park Regional Hospital, now faces a charge of attempted capital murder for the shooting that took place at the high school. A person answering the phone at the law office of attorney Paul Morrison, who represents Elmore, said that he would have no comment on the contents of the affidavit.

Morrison last week objected to the release to media outlets, including the Midwest Newsroom, of the affidavit, which provides law enforcement’s version of the events. Morrison argued that releasing it would fuel more news coverage of the event, sway potential jurors at trial and cause harm to students at Olathe East.

Johnson County District Court Judge Thomas Ryan ordered the release of the affidavit with names of student witnesses redacted. A spokesperson for the Olathe School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The shooting caused the school to go on lockdown. Parents later reunited with their children off campus. Stoppel and Clark were taken to Overland Park Regional Medical Center, where they were treated and released later that day.

The affidavit says someone overheard a conversation before the start of school that day that a student referred to as “Jay” was “always bringing a gun to school” and that in the past, he had pulled a gun out at school in front of them. That tip was passed along to a school counselor who relayed the information to Stoppel and another assistant principal, Leslie Simons.

The two began investigating and talking to students. One student was taken to the office and searched, but no gun was found, according to the affidavit.

Olathe East principal Kerry Lane told investigators that she was aware that two assistant principals were trying to find out if a student brought a gun to school. She then heard gunshots and smelled smoke and saw the door to Stoppel’s office was open. She confirmed that Elmore’s gun, a 9-millimeter “ghost gun,” was out of the student’s possession and proceeded to start locking down the school.

Ghost guns are sold in kits that buyers assemble themselves. They don’t have serial numbers.

Investigators recovered Elmore’s cellphone, which the affidavit says had a text message that showed up shortly before 1 p.m. on March 4 that said, “I TOLD YOU NOT TO EVEN HAVE THAT GUN ON YOU.”

The phone number and the identity of the sender was redacted from the affidavit.

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Steve Vockrodt