ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A 17-year-old boy was charged with shooting a 15-year-old student outside the
ninth-grade center at West Orange High School Wednesday, authorities said.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said Ja'Roderick Smith, 15, was shot, and remains in stable condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center with gunshot wounds to the face and abdomen. Thursday morning, students at West Orange High School held a vigil for Smith.
"We do have grief counselors here. The students are using the grief counselors," said Kathy Marsh, Orange County Public Schools.
Students lined up to go through a metal detector before entering the school.
A district spokesperson said security officials didn't find any weapons.
J'Morian Eddie Patrick Bell was charged in the shooting of Smith. WFTV was there when Bell was taken into custody.
"I got nothing to say to y'all fools, man," Bell said.
Demings said the shooting took place on the school campus, in the bus loop, and that a fight took place before the shooting.
"I thought it was just one of those fake fights that people do for fun," a student told WFTV. "You know, he was going, and they were just kinda doing some weak swings, and then I don't know, a guy just pulled a gun out of his pocket and shot the guy."
"I thought it was a fake gun. They were just playing. Then I heard the pop. I left right then," said student Austin Nornhold.
The school was placed on lockdown following the shooting. Buses were held in the bus loop at the school while deputies investigated the shooting.
Callers to WFTV said deputies went through each bus, searching students.
School officials said all of the students who were at the school at the time of the shooting were taken to Ocoee High School so parents could pick them up.
Demings said 911 operators received reports of the shooting around 1:24 p.m. Wednesday.
He said law enforcement agencies went to work quickly.
"We immediately instituted what we called 'active shooting protocol.' At that point, 100 law enforcement officers from the Sheriff's Office and surrounding agencies
responded," said Demings.
Deputies and police swarmed the area and set up a perimeter that stretched for blocks.
At the same time, the victim's mother was in a cellphone repair shop.
"Then she got a phone call that said her son was the one that got shot," a man told Channel 9.
The owner of the cellphone store called Channel 9 asking what he should do. He then took Smith's mother to the scene of the shooting.
Police took Bell into custody a few miles from the school.
"Apparently there may have been someone who assisted him and leaving the scene," said Demings.
Bell is charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor and possession of a firearm on school grounds.
Friends and family members spent the afternoon and evening at Smith's hospital bedside.
Demings, Orlando Mayor Teresa Jacobs and school officials all paid Smith a visit at the hospital.
Channel 9 learned that Smith underwent a battery of neurological and physical exams.
Officials said his family is "celebrating" news that the teen is expected to pull through.
"His mother is extremely relieved, obviously. It's traumatizing for a mother to hear that news," said Dr. Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools.
Channel 9's Anthony DiLorenzo was told that Smith was well enough to speak with detectives, but is facing a significant road to recovery.
Wednesday was the first day at West Orange High School for Smith, who had transferred from another school.