BENTON, Ky. — It was a journalist’s worst nightmare.
The editor of the Marshall County Daily Online raced to the county’s high school Tuesday morning after reports that shots had been fired.
She arrived to discover that the alleged shooter was her own son, said her colleague Ann Beckett, who told Courier Journal she went to comfort the editor and take over the story.
Mulitple people who know the family or have direct knowledge of the incident confirmed the identity of the boy, 15-year-old Gabe Parker, who is accused of pulling out a handgun and fatally shooting two classmates and wounding 14 other people just before classes were to begin.
Parker’s mother, Mary Garrison Minyard, declined to comment when she was approached at her home.
Family on the boy’s father’s side also declined to comment.
Authorities have released few details about the shooting, including the boy’s motive or his name, which has been circulating in the close-knit community of about 4,500 in southwestern Kentucky.
Friends and others who know Parker, a sophomore who played trombone in the school band, described him as a shy, red-headed “grandma’s boy” who would go fishing with his grandparents.
“Anything Grandma needed, he would get,” said Allyn Hornick, his neighbor in Pirates Cove, about 10 miles from Marshall County High School. “His grandma was his best friend.”
Ashley Collie, 15, a sophomore who spoke to Courier Journal with her parents’ permission, said she was baffled when she saw a photograph of Parker being escorted away from the school after the shootings and realized he was the suspect.
She said she was in the same math class with him two years ago and that he seemed “like a really good kid.” She said he was quiet and kept to himself.
Jayson Roberts, whose son was in several classes with Parker, said his son knew of no issues with him in school and that he was well-liked by members of the school band.
Collie said some of Parker’s friends talked after the shooting about how he was “snappy” when he returned after the Christmas break. She said friends also said he talked about violence and an interest in joining the Mafia.
Hornick said that a couple of weeks ago, when he last talked to Parker at his grandparents’ house, the boy seemed anxious about school and a little bit down.
Rumors have spread on social media that Parker may have been bullied. Collie said she has heard that, but she had no direct knowledge it was true.
Collie said she believes he was firing randomly at students Tuesday morning but that he was “definitely shooting to kill” because several victims were shot in the head.
She said she was near an industrial arts shop when the first shots were fired and she initially thought they were the sounds of someone striking metal.
By the fifth shot, however, she said, she realized it was gunfire and took refuge in a teacher’s office, where she and other students waited 45 minutes until they were rescued by police.
“That was the most horrifying part,” she said. “The waiting.”
Parker was arrested within minutes and was charged as a juvenile with two counts of murder and 12 counts of assault. After a closed hearing Thursday in Marshall District Court, Assistant County Attorney Jason Darnall said the boy is being detained and that prosecutors would move within a week to have him tried as an adult.
Two neighbors said Friday that police were at the house Tuesday after the shooting. One said it was “very busy,” but declined to say anything further.
The other described seeing police officers and what he believed were agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said he saw them carrying out a laptop and boxes.
George Huffman, supervisory special agent for the ATF’s Louisville Division, said that his department has completed the trace of the handgun used in the shooting, but he declined to provide any information about its type and how the shooter may have gotten it.
Hornick, the neighbor, said Parker’s mother does not keep guns.
Parker’s parents were divorced in 2007 when he was 5, and both remarried.
Austin Parker and Gabe’s stepmother, Jennifer Lynn Parker, separated on Nov. 24, 2016, after the elder Parker allegedly slapped her during an argument. Parker was charged with fourth-degree assault and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of disorderly conduct, for which he received 90 days in jail conditionally discharged for two years. They were divorced last year.
In a citation, police said that Jennifer Parker had a large red mark on her face when they answered a domestic violence call at the couple’s home in Murray.
In a petition for a domestic violence order, she said Austin was “controlling and a bully.” She said he had slapped her once previously and has “always had a short fuse.”
Divorce pleadings in Calloway and Marshall counties in both of Austin Parker’s marriages do not mention Gabe, other than to cite his date of birth and say that his parents agreed to joint custody of him.
Collie said classes resumed at the high school Friday with a meeting at which students and teachers gave thanks to first responders.
She said students were given the option of leaving immediately after the meeting, which she did.
She said a lot of students are angry at Parker, but that one of the girls who was injured said we need to forgive him “because he was hurting too.”
Reporters Justin Sayers and Darcy Costello contributed to this story.