Aztec High School Gunman Planned Shooting, Previously Investigated by FBI

The FBI questioned the gunman in 2016 after he posted a comment on a gaming site asking about mass shootings and the cost of assault rifles.

Aztec High School Gunman Planned Shooting, Previously Investigated by FBI

Police say 21-year-old William Atchison legally purchased a handgun a month ago and did not have specific targets in the planned shooting.

The gunman in last week’s deadly shooting at Aztec High School in Aztec, N.M., left behind notes plotting the attack and his subsequent suicide.

The two victims are 17-year-old Casey Jordan-Marquez and 18-year-old Francisco Fernandez.

The killer, identified as 21-year-old William Atchison, was a former student at Aztec High School but did not graduate. Authorities say he legally purchased a handgun a month ago and planned the attack, reports The Mercury News.

The detailed plan lived on several documents on a thumb drive which was found on Atchison’s body. A message had been written less than two hours before the shooting.

“If things go according to plan, today would be when I die. I waited till the school buses are detected then head out on foot disguised as a student. I go somewhere and gear up, then hold a class hostage, then go ape****, then blow my brains out,” reads one of the documents.

Atchison entered the school and went into a second-floor bathroom to prepare for the shooting. As he was gearing up in the bathroom, Fernandez entered and was shot and killed. Atchison then walked into the hallway where he shot and killed Jordan-Marquez.

After firing randomly up and down the hallway, Atchison turned the gun on himself. Police say the two victims were not specific targets.

“He was determined to create as much carnage as he possibly could,” says San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen.

Authorities say more lives could have been lost had Fernandez not entered the bathroom. Atchison had several magazines and reloaded multiple times.

“He walked into that bathroom and saved lives. If not, the shooter would have walked into a classroom. That kid’s a hero,” says New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas.

Shooter Previously Investigated by FBI

In 2016, the FBI went to Atchison’s home after a post he wrote on a gaming site was flagged, according to CNN. FBI agent Terry Wade would not give specific details, but says the post was along the lines of: “If you’re going to commit a mass shooting, does anyone know about cheap assault rifles?”

Atchison did not own any weapons besides an airsoft pellet gun. He told the FBI he had no plans for an attack and just liked to “troll” gaming websites. The case was closed as he did not have a gun and had not committed a crime.

Following Thursday’s shooting, investigators found a torn note in a trash can in Atchison’s bedroom that listed what is believed to be a timeline for the shooting. The last word of the note read “die”.

“Work sucks, school sucks, life sucks. I just want out of this s***. F*** this state, it really is bad. Think I’m insane? I’m actually more rational, peaceful and less loony than a majority of the citizenry of this entire region,” Atchison also wrote in one of the documents found on the thumb drive.

Authorities do not believe anyone else was aware of the planned shooting. Atchison lived at home with his parents and worked at a local gas station.

The school remained closed on Friday as investigators assessed bullet holes.

About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy’s mother, brother, sister-in-law and a handful of cousins are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her husband, her son and her dog.

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One response to “Aztec High School Gunman Planned Shooting, Previously Investigated by FBI”

  1. Another sad story that should have been prevented, no matter how much security technology you have in place this is all on human error. The suspect was able to enter the schools without being detected. School protocols failed!

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