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'Hold your children close' | Private school near Van Ness shooting closes for 'mental and physical' recovery

A man with a "sniper-style" setup fired more than 60 gunshots in 19 seconds, aiming and hitting the windows of Edmund Burke School with students still inside.

WASHINGTON — The Edmund Burke School, grappling with the aftermath of a shooting that put students in the crosshairs, closed for several days to allow the community to recover. 

The elite private school that enrolls about 300 students in sixth through 12th grade was significantly impacted by a shooting in Northwest D.C. Friday afternoon that left four people injured. WUSA9 obtained an email that Damian Jones, head of school at Edmund Burke, sent to families Saturday where he said “three community members” were injured in the shooting.

Students were leaving school for the day, when a gunman allegedly in the AVA Van Ness building opened fire from a fifth-floor apartment with what DC Police Chief Robert Contee described as a “sniper-type setup” with six firearms and a tripod for mounting rifles.

People in the neighborhood, including the school community, panicked as the gunman opened fire, shooting more than 60 rounds in 19 seconds, aiming at and hitting the school windows. Contee told reporters Saturday morning that investigators know that in total, “over 100 rounds were fired from a long gun” apparently at random.

RELATED: Police: Suspected gunman in quadruple NW shooting found dead in apartment with 'sniper-type setup'

Credit: Metropolitan Police Department
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee says investigators recovered six firearms from the suspect's apartment after he was found dead. The were long guns, handguns and "multiple rounds of ammunition."

Police say the man suspected of the attack died by suicide in the fifth floor AVA Van Ness apartment, but they have not yet confirmed his identity.

Several residential buildings, businesses and nearby schools sheltered-in-place, for hours, including Edmund Burke School, as investigators actively searched for the gunman. Parents started finally reunited with students around 6:45 p.m. when students were bussed to the Cleveland Park Library, which served as a reunification center.

Jones opened his letter to the Edmund Burke community Saturday writing, “We don’t yet have words for what we all experienced [Friday].”

He said school leaders are assessing how to best move forward as a community.

“Our Administrative Team and Executive Committee of the Board will meet tomorrow and on Monday to discuss how we can best attend to our community’s needs, mental and physical, in the days and weeks to come,” he wrote. "For now, parents, hold your children close and, students, be in close touch with your friends." 

WUSA9 spoke with Edmund Burke parents and people in the Van Ness neighborhood who are not only processing what happened Friday but many of whom said they are deeply concerned about the easy access to guns in the District. 

RELATED: Video purportedly recorded by DC shooter reveals more than 60 gunshots over a 19-second span, taking aim at school window

Credit: WUSA9
Screenshot from a 30-second long video purportedly recorded and posted by an alleged shooter while he opened fire in Northwest D.C. Friday.

In Jones' letter to families, he described the action taken by staff, faculty, and administrators who sheltered with students, writing “everyone did everything right.”

“[O]ur faculty, staff, and administrators who sheltered, cared for, and stayed with our students; our young people who showed profound courage and compassion for one another, and even brought levity to yesterday’s long hours," he said. "Our local and federal law enforcement who were on-site within minutes; our neighbors who opened their businesses and homes, including our colleagues at the Levine School.”

The school has reportedly asked parents to limit their communication with members of the media.

Many parents have been reluctant to speak on camera and agreed to speak to WUSA9 on the condition that their names not be included in this story.

“We live in the nation's capital and there's no safe space in the city,” one Edmund Burke mother said.

The mother said the school has been excellent in their communication and despite the tragedy, she feels her daughter is safe there.

“On one hand, it brings me a high level of anxiety; just being around the school, within the area, going into the carpool lane," she said. "But on the other hand, I feel some level of comfort. I feel like it might be a safe space for my daughter." 

Of the four people who were shot by the gunman, police say two were women — one in her 30s the other in her 60s — one was a 54-year-old man and the youngest was a 12-year-old girl. MPD said all of the known victims survived the shooting, but police haven’t officially identified these individuals, nor said where they were shot. 

One victim, Patricia Termini, spoke to WUSA9 hours after the shooting Friday and showed a hole through her bloodstained blouse, where her shoulder was grazed by a bullet. She said she was treated on the scene.

Termini said she was in her car waiting to pick up a child who attends Edmund Burke. She heard what sounded like an explosion and started calling the parents of the child. Suddenly, after the third burst of gunfire sounded, Termini said she got out of her car and called out — “Am I shot? Am I shot? Am I shot?” — before noticing her wounds.

People in the Van Ness neighborhood said they are still grappling with the trauma of the day.

Binta Robinson has always called D.C. home. Though she has no school-aged children, she’s disturbed her neighborhood seemed to be the target of such a violent attack.

“It just breaks my sense of safety and well-being,” Robinson said Sunday. 

Credit: Letter obtained by WUSA9
Damian Jones, head of school at Edmund Burke School, sent this letter to families in an email on April 23, one day after a gunman shot 4 people as students were dismissing from school on Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street.

Alfredo Fort said he’s been living in this community for a short time. Friday’s shooting served as a reminder, that crime has no zip code.

“Frankly speaking, I never thought it was going to happen here," he said. "You know, because, well of course, it's a privileged area. Let's admit it."

Fort said he's concerned from a public safety aspect and the mental health of the community.

"When you combine that with free availability of machine guns, why can people get machine guns?" he wondered. "We saw the pictures. How can that be?"

Seemingly oblivious to the danger this area found itself in just a few days ago, children were skipping along the sidewalks Sunday, enjoying the summer-like temperatures. The Edmund Burke School mother she’s more concerned with the current level of access everyday people have to weapons, and normalizing tragedy for children.

“There’s still gun violence, there’s still bullets flying," she said. "So, it comes down to congress dealing with this gun violence and our mayor." 

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