STILLWATER — When a shot rang out in the hallway of Stillwater Junior High School, panic, screams and uncertainty followed.
Cade Poulos, 13, was dead. He pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head at 7:50 a.m. Wednesday in a crowded hallway, police said.
There was no suicide note, Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson said. It remained unclear Wednesday night why the student took his own life.
As they recalled the events of the day, Poulos' peers struggled to make sense of the tragedy.
Joli Moffitt, 14, a ninth-grade student, was around the corner from Poulos when he shot himself. She was showing a piece of art to a teacher. That morning, some students were dressed like superheroes at the school, part of a week of events planned in honor of cancer awareness.
Moffitt heard a bang. She thought someone had slammed books on the ground.
“I heard that and then I go and look and I see his body on the floor,” Moffitt said, sitting on the porch of her home in Stillwater.
“And I see a puddle of blood around him.”
Chaos followed. A teacher screamed. Someone told her to run. Moffitt could only stand and stare at first, she said.
“I was just shocked at what I saw,” she said. “My friend, lying dead in the hallway.”
She at first thought someone else had killed Poulos, and that person might shoot at other students.
“I started running after I got myself back together,” she said. “I started running because I was scared someone was in the school going to shoot at other people.”
A school resource officer was in an adjacent hallway and heard the shot, Dickerson, said. The officer quickly found the student's body and locked down the school.
Students were ushered into classrooms for about 30 minutes. Teachers locked the doors and shut off the lights. Students inside were terrified, Moffitt said.
“I'm nervous, shaking. I cried a couple of times,” she said.
A police officer let the students out of the rooms at the school. The news reached the students, by rumor and on Facebook, that Poulos had killed himself. A school administrator and the police department confirmed that news publicly about midmorning. The news conference was held outside the district's administrative offices in the college town of roughly 46,000 about 65 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.
Upon hearing the news, Moffitt felt relief and sadness all at once.
“I was glad it wasn't anybody shooting, just to shoot somebody, but was sad that he killed himself,” Moffitt said.
From their classrooms, students were led to a gym and then onto buses that took them to the nearby Cimarron Plaza strip mall. An alert about the incident was sent via email and phone to all parents, said Ann Caine, superintendent of Stillwater Public Schools. Parents picked up students at the mall.