Math teacher David Benke grabbed the gunman and told him his reign of terror was over. Assistant principal Becky Brown seized the high-powered rifle and tossed it away.
The two staff members at Deer Creek Middle School began the day Feb. 23 as educators. But they ended it as heroes.
Both spoke to the media Wednesday morning in a news conference at district headquarters.
Benke tackled the gunman, who opened fire as students were leaving the building at the end of the school day, just after he had reloaded. But the assailant managed to get off another shot that hit 14-year-old Matt Thieu, who remained at Children's Hospital in serious condition. His first shot had hit 13-year-old Reagan Weber.
Benke hesitated and looked down when asked about the scuffle with the assailant, saying he was a little fuzzy about the details but believes the man dropped the gun when he saw him coming.
He showed how he grabbed the gunman’s jacket and wrestled with him, saying: “Look, bud, I’m 6-foot-5 … you’re not going anywhere.”
Hailed as a hero, Benke said he’s not so sure.
“I’d like to say it was bravery, but it’s more like stupidity,” Benke said.
Assistant principal Becky Brown was matter-of-fact about the motivations that spurred her to action.
“He came onto campus and had a gun, and that’s not OK,” Brown said.
The 30-minute news conference also included Jeffco Superintendent Cindy Stevenson and Deer Creek principal Rob Hoover.
“We saw a vivid example of how good our staff is … they responded with such skill and such courage,” Stevenson said.
Hoover said that while his staff routinely handles the day-to-day disruptions that are part of any school, this was the first time they had to deal with unimaginable violence in their midst.
Teachers rotate outside duty watching students and making sure they’re safe, said Hoover. Benke was on duty in front of the school when the shooting began.
“David’s definitely earned a pass from outdoor duty; I’ll be in his spot from now on,” Hoover said.