resolve marks Oregon high school graduation ceremony after fatal
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[June 13, 2014]
By Shelby Sebens
PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) - Two days after a
teenaged gunman shot dead a classmate and took his own life, a Oregon
high school held a graduation ceremony marked by grief, bewilderment and
vows to move forward.
Tuesday's shooting, the third outburst of gun violence to shake a
U.S. high school or college campus in less than three weeks,
unfolded on what was supposed to be the second-to-last day of
classes at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon, a suburb of
Instead, school officials canceled the last day of classes on
Wednesday, along with final exams, and arranged for grief counselors
to be made available for students.
The disruption continued at a senior class commencement ceremony on
Thursday evening, with nearly 500 students, as well as parents and
teachers battling mixed emotions: the joy of graduation and the
lasting mark of tragedy.
The crowd observed a moment of silence in memory of 14-year-old
Emilio Hoffman, who was killed, and later erupted in cheers and
applause for Todd Rispler, the school gym teacher who was grazed by
gunfire but fought to initiate the school lockdown, which police
said likely saved lives.
"It's very important that you as graduates realize that this is your
night. I also hope that you remember the one, who like you, will
never walk the halls of Reynolds High School again, but for a
different reason," Principal Wade Bakley said in an address after
the moment of silence.
"Celebrate loud so everyone can hear you, including Emilio," he
Hoffman was shot to death when fellow freshman student Jared Michael
Padgett, 15, walked into the boys' locker room of the gymnasium and
opened fire with a AR-15 assault-style rifle, also grazing Rispler.
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Police converging on the school exchanged shots with Padgett and
later found him dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a
Thursday's commencement was in many ways similar to other graduation
ceremonies across the nation. Balloons were tied to a fence outside
the Portland's Veterans Memorial Coliseum and students donned caps
and gowns that matched the school colors - white for girls and green
Student Cole Bronson, wearing his cap and gown, looked for a way
forward in brief remarks to reporters assembled outside the arena.
"We are down, not out," he said. Tonight is our night, class of
(Reporting by Shelby Sebens; Writing by Steve Gorman and Eric M.
Johnson; Editing by Grant McCool and Matt Driskill)
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