A teenage boy is fighting for his life in hospital after he was allegedly shot by his classmate - on their first day back at school.

The shooting occurred at Watson Chapel Junior High, in the Arkansas city of Pine Bluff, on Monday morning local time.

The 15-year-old victim was flown to Arkansas Children's Hospital in a serious condition.

Pine Bluff Police Department Chief, Kelvin Sergeant, said the shooting was an isolated incident and the two boys knew each other.

"We don't have a definite motive right now, however we do believe this was a targeted incident, as opposed to a random incident," Mr Sergeant said.

"We would like to express our prayers and concerns for the victim...we are not sure if Watson Chapel School District will be open, if it is, we will have extra officers on scene and our chaplains there as well to help with any type of grief counselling that they may need."

Pine Bluff Police Department Chief, Kelvin Sergeant. Picture: KATV
Pine Bluff Police Department Chief, Kelvin Sergeant. Picture: KATV


The high school was locked down as police rushed to the scene with officers securing the school in a matter of minutes.

The teen suspect, also 15 years old, was found hiding in bushes near the school.

Police dogs had tracked the teenager with officers finding him behind a house near the school.

The teenager has been taken to the Jack Jones Juvenile Detention Centre in Pine Bluff, awaiting charges.

The shooting occurred just before 10am on Monday and was the first day the school had brought its pupils back for in-person learning.

The school district has been intermittently closed over the past year due to COVID but was also forced to return to online learning a week ago when freezing temperatures and snowstorms triggered chaos in the small city.

A student in Year 8 named Travis Harden told local news station Fox 16 that most students were in the hallway when the shooting started.

"Everybody just started running from where the bullets came from," he said.

"I didn't know what to do. I just sat still."


Watson Chapel Junior High School. Picture: Google Maps
Watson Chapel Junior High School. Picture: Google Maps


The Watson Chapel School District kept parents regularly updated as their children stayed locked inside.

"This was an isolated incident and all students are safe at this time," the district said in a statement.

"The parents of the student hurt has been notified so if you have not been notified by the school your student is safe and secure.

"The police are not letting anyone in and out of the buildings. You will not be allowed to come get your student at this time."

In a follow-up post, at around 12pm local time, the district added "all students are safe!"

A SWAT team was also on scene, and checked numerous buildings and classrooms.

School shootings in the US slowed in 2020, due to online learning.

However, 25 school shootings were recorded in 2019, a number of which didn't make the news.

The figure comes from a US Education Week database that tracks shootings on K-12 schoolgrounds that resulted in injury or death.


Originally published as Shooting at US school on first day back