ITALY

A 16-year-old male student was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he shot a 15-year-old girl in the Italy High School cafeteria Monday morning.

"It sounded like a balloon," recalled Garrett Cash, a junior at Italy High School who was two tables away from the shooter when the four shots from a .380 handgun were fired around 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 22. He said his initial thought was to "get down and not get shot."

Cash has known the student since the third grade.

The Ellis County Sheriff's Department reported the shooter to be in custody just after 8 a.m. Officials also stated the victim was taken via air ambulance to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

In an open letter to the community, Italy ISD Superintendent Lee Joffre stated he met with the family and victim Monday evening and "they communicated a message of strength and recovery." Joffre noted she was shot "multiple times."

A GoFundMe for the victim has been established to help with medical bills. The GoFundMe page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/medical-fund-for-noelle-cricket.

Ellis County Sheriff Chuck Edge stated an Italy High School staff member initially confronted the shooter in the cafeteria. It was at that time that the suspect fled. He was then apprehended outside of the cafeteria while still on school grounds.

Officials have not yet released the name of the shooter, who will stand initial trial Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 10:30 a.m. in the 443rd District Courtroom in Ellis County.

Students were promptly evacuated from the campus and taken to nearby Stafford Elementary School, located at 301 Harris Street in Italy, to be reunited with their parents.

Brisa Gray, a mother with a student at Italy High School, said she was at work when her husband called with the news. Her first reaction was to "just stay calm and pray and don't lose it because obviously, you can't think straight. Don't jump to the negative. Just stay positive."

"My husband did say he was shaken up because it had just happened. He wasn't hysterical, but he was shaken up," Gray recalled of the phone call. "It can happen anywhere. We tell our kids every day to make sure you're safe. Be careful and have your cell phones charged because that's your lifeline."

Another mother, Michelle Wilson, said even if there is school tomorrow that her children will not attend.

"It could easily just happen again. It's a small town and all these kids know each other," Wilson said. "Something like this really rocks a community."

Fighting back the tears, Wilson added, "We can't even keep our kids safe anymore. This is so scary."

Shortly after the incident, Rep. John Wray stated, "Please pray for the safety of all those at the school and for anyone who may have been injured."

Italy Police and DPS troopers were dispatched to the high school at 7:53 a.m.

During a Monday morning press conference, Ellis County Sheriff's Sgt. Joe Fitzgerald stated the Ellis County Sheriff's Office took the lead on the investigation. He also noted Italy Police, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, Ellis County and Hill County Sheriff's deputies worked the scene.

Italy ISD Superintendent Lee Joffre said, "This is a trying time for our community and our school." He added that as soon as the administration learned of the active shooter, they "took action to get our students into a safe position."

Joffre said the school district works "very well with the Italy Police Department. We have trainings with our staff to help them learn how to respond to these type of things."

Joffre explained the training, which includes assistance from the Ellis County Sheriff's Department, first instructs teachers and students to "make sure they get into a safe situation. And then, from there, we make sure we set up for unification."

He added that the last active-shooter training was "earlier this year." Joffre said there are typically 45-55 students in the cafeteria during the morning.

Joffre also noted the district is currently working with Texas Education Administration Region 10 officials to provide students with grief counselors.

Neither Joffre or Fitzgerald commented on a potential motive or relationship between the shooter and victim.

"In a small town, the school district is the center of what goes on with our kids. This morning's tragedy hits the heart of this community," Joffre said. "I want to express to you that our staff acted as trained and addressed the situation in the best way they could. Our staff did a great job of helping the students get unified with their parents.

"Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will be having school as scheduled and during that time we will have grief counselors from across the Region 10 area, as well as Ellis County, to respond to our students' needs. All of our students' needs have been accounted for today, and I am happy to say that all students are accounted for."

This report has been updated throughout since its initial online posting Monday morning, Jan. 22.

*Editor's note: The Daily Light does not normally name underage victims in its reports. Due to the nature of the incident and our duty to serve the community, our editorial team agreed to include a link to a GoFundMe account for the victim. The page, along with the link, includes the victim's name. She is not named in the above report outside of the link. Our condolences go out to the family of all parties involved, the students and faculty at Italy High School, and the Italy community as a whole.