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Chief: Previous dispute led to fatal shooting of student at Richfield school

Police Chief Jay Henthorne says an earlier altercation between five South Education Center students apparently rekindled Tuesday, leading to the fatal shooting.

RICHFIELD, Minn. — A previous dispute involving five students is apparently behind a shooting outside a Richfield school campus Tuesday that claimed the life of a 15-year-old student and critically wounded another. 

Richfield Police Chief Jay Henthorne was one of several law enforcement and city officials to brief reporters Wednesday on the fatal shooting and the arrest of two young men who face charges in the incident. 

Henthorne says investigators believe a dispute between the alleged gunmen and the victims, including 15-year-old Jahmari Rice, rekindled on the sidewalk outside the entrance to the South Education Center just after noon. The chief says two suspects, ages 18 and 19, opened fire during the conflict, killing Rice and wounding a 17-year-old who is currently being treated at Hennepin County Medical Center. Another 19-year-old involved in the incident suffered minor injuries at the scene. 

"The five students did know each other, an altercation possibly related to a previous dispute took place, occurred between the five students near the front entrance to the high school... during the altercation a handgun was produced and both juveniles were shot," Henthorne shared. 

RELATED: 2 arrested in fatal shooting of student outside Richfield school

The suspects fled the scene before officers could arrive, but Henthorne says the suspect vehicle and the suspected gunmen were quickly located. Around 6 p.m. police simultaneously served search warrants on two separate addresses in Minneapolis, one of which turned up a firearm. Throughout the evening five additional search warrants were served late into the evening, including one at an address in Crystal where an additional handgun was found. 

Henthorne says ballistic tests will be performed on both weapons to determine which, if any, was involved in the fatal shooting. The vehicle that the suspects were in was also impounded to be processed for evidence. 

The chief says charges against the men are expected by Thursday afternoon. 

FBI agent in charge Michael Paul and the ATF's William McCrary both said their organizations train for situations like the one that unfolded at South Education Center, and credited everyone involved in the massive law enforcement response. 

While law enforcement says it is believed there is no longer any danger to the public, District #287 Superintendent Sandy Lewandowski says what students and staff members experienced Tuesday will be difficult to move past.

"What we know already is that the days ahed will be some of the most difficult that we're experienced for the South Education Center community," Lewandowski said. "Our students and their families are hurting, our staff are hurting, the member of our safety team and others who first responded to our student's injuries are hurting greatly. The trauma they experienced will be with them the rest of their lives."

The superintendent says her learning community will need time to grieve and heal, and promised that District 287 will be focused on that. Over the next two days while students remain at home, staff members will take part in restorative circles, tell their stories to help process the trauma from Tuesday's shooting event, and be in community to support each other in a difficult time. 

Lewandowski says when students do return to the building, there will be robust mental health support for each and every one of them. She told reporters she and district staff have been overwhelmed with offers from mental health professionals from across the state who want to help. 

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