By Julie K. Brown, The Miami Herald –
MIAMI — A student shot and killed a 13-year-old girl in front of her younger sister and seven other children on a school bus Tuesday morning in Homestead, Fla., police said.
The girl, whose identity has not been released, was flown to Miami Children’s Hospital where she died, according to Miami-Dade Police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta. She was student at the Palm Glades Preparatory Academy charter school.
The shooting happened at about 6:45 a.m. EST.
One of the students on the bus, age 11, immediately used her cellphone to call her mother. “I’m very lucky she was OK,” her mother told reporters at the scene.
No one else was injured.
At Palm Glades, Gilberto Canino came early to pick up his two children.
“I still haven’t been able to cope with it,” he said. “I don’t understand how this could happen.”
The suspect, whose name and age were not released, was being questioned by police. A firearm was recovered at the scene, police said.
Zabaleta said police didn’t know the motive for the shooting. Detectives were gathering evidence and trying to interview the students at Miami-Dade police headquarters in Doral. Miami-Dade’s homicide unit is in charge of the case since Homestead does not have homicide detectives.
“Obviously, they are very traumatized. It will take some time,” Zabaleta said.
Homestead police said initial reports indicate that the girl was shot in the neck. Her younger sister, who was also on the bus, attends Summerville charter school.
Three schools are serviced by the bus service, said Lynn Norman-Teck, spokeswoman for Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools.
About noon, worried parents started to visit Palm Glades to check on their children.
“I’m scared,” said Ruth Otero, whose son, Christian is in eighth grade there. She said he walks to school but she was still worried at the news of the shooting.
Bus drivers are trained in the mechanics of driving vehicles, but need more training in other areas like crisis management, building relationships with kids and intervention, said Ken Trump, a national bus safety expert who has trained South Florida school bus drivers.
“School bus drivers are often the first and last employees to see a student on a school day,” he said.
“Violence and conflict that happen in schools often start in neighborhoods and communities and the bus drivers are often going to be the first ones at risk of encountering that,” Trump said.
Besides resources like security monitors and cameras, basic and ongoing training is needed for school bus drivers, whether they work for a district, charter or private company, he said.