• Photos: Millard South shooting
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• Audio: Police respond to the scene
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Robert Butler Jr. walked into Millard South High School Wednesday just before 1 p.m. and signed in to speak to Assistant Principal Vicki Kaspar.
It was his second visit to Kaspar's office that day. The first hadn't been a pleasant one, the 17-year-old senior slapped with a 19-day suspension for taking part in a Jan. 1 incident where a car was driven across a school football field and track at the school.
But on this four-minute visit, Butler had a gun. It was a Glock .40, believed to be the service weapon of his father, an Omaha police officer.
Butler shot the 58-year-old Kaspar, mortally wounding her, and then fired on Principal Curtis Case. He fired seven shots in all, the last a missed shot at a school custodian, before fleeing the school by car.
Omaha police found him about 45 minutes later in a parking lot, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.
Kaspar, described by colleagues as a consummate professional devoted to kids, was rushed from the school by helicopter but died hours later. Case, 44, was in serious condition and expected to survive the shooting that rocked the school, the district and the city.
Questions remained and the pain lingered Thursday in the wake of what's believed to be the worst school shooting incident in Nebraska. After Wednesday, Millard South joins the long, sobering list of schools around the globe that have been devastated by disaffected students with guns.
For many in Omaha, it also was a haunting reminder of the Von Maur shooting spree, which on a similar wintry weekday in December 2007 left eight victims dead.
But what was also clear Thursday was the resolve of the Millard South community to come together, heal and move beyond the tragedy.
“We are not going to be defeated by this,'' said 17-year-old Kelsey Shedd, who helped organize a prayer vigil for the victims Thursday at the school, where classes were canceled for the day.
None of the other students in the high school at 149th and Q Streets was hurt, but they endured an ordeal of terror. After the gunfire rang out, students were ordered to huddle in the back of darkened, locked-down classrooms.
“Someone was shot. I'm not dead,'' one student texted her mother.
Another texted this message: “If I don't make it out, I love you.”
Panic-stricken parents rushed to the school based on such contacts and breaking news reports, fearing for their children's lives. Hundreds gathered in a church parking lot set up as a staging area, looking east to Millard South and nervously checking cell phones and messages.
Parents were quickly assured that their kids were safe, but it took hours before all the students were finally released.
Even kindergartners went through the sadly common school drill — one that this time was for real.
Butler's father is Robert Butler Sr., an Omaha police detective. Omaha Police Chief Alex Hayes said in a Thursday press conference that investigators believe the semiautomatic handgun the younger Butler used was his father's service weapon.
While questions about what transpired in the school remain, details from Hayes, interviews with students who knew Butler and two people familiar with the case provided an account of a good but unhappy student who struggled with a move to a new school.
Butler had transferred to Millard South in October from Lincoln Southwest High School. Hayes said Butler had been having tardiness issues and was not listening to his mother, whom he lived with in Lincoln.
The midyear move to a new city and school had been difficult for Butler, his friends said.
Butler referred to his negative feelings in a Wednesday posting on Facebook, the social networking website. Omaha had changed him, he said, and his new school was “even worse.''
For Millard students, Wednesday was the first day back from Christmas break. During that break on Jan. 1, Butler was cited by police for criminal trespass for driving his car on the the football field and track of the school, causing property damage.
Butler, who reportedly had not had previous disciplinary problems at the school, was pulled from his first class by a school security officer at 8:10 a.m. and brought to Kaspar's office. She imposed the suspension because of the damage to school property. Kaspar also called Butler's father in the student's presence.
Butler was escorted out of the school building at 9:23 a.m. His father did not pick him up, and it was unclear how he left the school or where he went. Hayes described him as acting calmly as he left the school and later when he talked to his dad at home.
Police believe it was sometime after he left the school but before he returned that Butler made a chilling Facebook posting that became part of the investigation.
“ur gomna here about the evil s--- I did but that f---- school drove me to this,'' he wrote. “I greatly affected the lives of families ruined but I'm sorry. goodbye.''
During the interim, Butler also went to his home. It's at that time police believe he took his father's gun, which was in a closet. His father, who worked the night shift, had been home but left for about 40 minutes to run errands when the gun was taken. The son broke into the garage to take the car that had been locked away since the Jan. 1 incident.
Butler reappeared on the school campus at 12:45 p.m. He walked into the school and signed in to speak to Kaspar.
“He walked into the school just like any normal student,'' Hayes said. A different security guard than the one who escorted him out was on duty at that time.
Police said he was in Kaspar's office for about four minutes with the door closed.
At some point, he pulled a gun, shooting Kaspar three or four times in the upper torso as she sat behind her desk.
Responding to the commotion, Principal Case bolted out of his office across the hall. Butler left Kaspar's office and shot Case two or three times from about 5 feet away, hitting the principal in the back and hip.
As Butler left the school office, he fired wildly down the hall, creating what Hayes described as two additional victims. One was a school custodian who police believe Butler was firing at. The shot missed him and struck a wall, debris from which struck another school employee, a school nurse.
Through a window, the unarmed school security officer saw Butler leaving the office and crouched down behind his desk to protect himself. Butler saw the officer and pointed the gun at him but did not fire. Hayes said he would have had numerous rounds still in the gun.
Butler then left the school, and the security officer ran into the office to check on the victims.
Kaspar was found down behind her desk, bleeding profusely. “Help me,” she pleaded.
Over the intercom, students said, another assistant principal announced a “code red,'' the signal for a lockdown. It requires students to stay in their rooms and take cover.
“It's not a drill,'' he said in a shaky voice.
The first call to 911 came at 12:50 p.m. The school resource officer at Millard South, who is armed but was in another office at the time of the shooting, heard the shots and put out a “Help an Officer” call. Omaha officers rushed to the scene, the first arriving in seconds.
The school resource officer then headed out the doors after seeing the security guard out front. The guard gave him Butler's name and the description of the vehicle in which he had fled, and the resource officer put it out over the police radio.
Since it was not yet known how many suspects there were, arriving officers, including some in tactical gear, entered the school to conduct a sweep.
At about 1:35 p.m., 911 received a call about a suspicious vehicle and found the red Accord in a parking lot near 148th and D Streets, about a mile from the school.
Officers approached the car and found Butler dead behind the wheel from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the vehicle's engine still running.
Police announced about 9 p.m. Wednesday that Kaspar, too, had died of her wounds.
More than 200 students and parents gathered Thursday at the school courtyard for a noon prayer vigil. Students read from the Bible and prayed for Kaspar and Case.
The students also sang “Happy Birthday” to Kaspar, who died in the shooting. She would have turned 59 on Thursday. As students sang, they released six pink and blue balloons that floated east into the sky.
Students linked arms and held hands. Some cried.
The shooting incident is only the second in a Nebraska school in the state's modern history. In 1995, a seventh-grader in Chadron shot and wounded a teacher.
But as with the Von Maur shootings three years earlier, Omaha received a grim reminder that such senseless violence can happen anywhere, anytime.
Said parent Milton Lopez: “I'd never expected this to happen in a little town like Omaha.''
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