Española Police Department has confirmed several reports received this morning that two Taos County school buses carrying sports teams from Questa and Peñasco were shot at as they traveled home Tuesday night (Oct. 3).
Patrol officers responded to two separate calls of "shots fired" between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. in the central Española area. They discovered near-identical scenes and heard similar stories from either bus driver, who both told police that their buses had been shot at by an unknown assailant.
Returning from a volleyball game at McCurdy Charter School, the Peñasco bus driver told police they had heard two loud pops as they drove past Angelina's Restaurant along Fairview Lane. They then heard glass shatter near the rear of the bus. A female student had been struck by glass that shattered from a window on the driver's side of the vehicle, according to Detective George Martinez. Another female student cut her hand on broken glass.
"We weren't able to find any casings," he said, "but after searching the bus and processing the windows, we found that – based on the measurements of the holes in the window – that it was a soft-caliber that was used."
"Soft-caliber" projectiles refer to plastic or steel pellets that are typically discharged from CO2-powered or air-pump firearms. Martinez stated that if "hard-caliber" bullets had been fired – such as those of a .22-caliber firearm – the bullet would have completely penetrated the window, but that the energy from the pellets was still "enough to force shrapnel to hit the student and cause some glass to enter the left side of her cheek," he said.
As officers were still on the scene, they received a second report of shots fired.
At the second scene, a Questa bus driver stated they had been passing by McDonald's after returning from a soccer game when they also heard pops and glass shatter. On the scene, the investigation turned up a similar-sized mark in the window, indicating that the same caliber projectile had been fired. "It was the same shooter – definitely," Martinez said.
Though officers do not have a suspect at this time, the Questa bus driver told police they had witnessed a "white Chevy" pull abruptly into the Walmart parking lot immediately following the shooting. "We're in the process right now of getting a suspect," Martinez said. "Our [criminal investigation department] will be posting information on Facebook shortly."
Although soft-caliber projectiles were fired, Martinez said that the potential bodily harm could be severe if a student had been hit directly. "It could cause serious bodily harm or death," he said. "It would have hit the temple of both of them if [the pellets] had penetrated the windows."
The superintendent from the Peñasco Independent School District had no further comment on the situation, but did confirm that the occurrence took place. According to Superintendent Marvin MacAuley, the bus that was used to transport the team was a yellow school bus with simple markings on the side, indicating the bus belonged to the Peñasco Independent School District. Like many other schools in the state, Peñasco owns a specialty bus painted in the team colors with the mascot emblazoned on the exterior.
Councilors and a social worker were on hand to help students who were involved, and a meeting with students was scheduled to take place at Peñasco High School at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 4.
Questa soccer coach Bill MacDonald, who was on the bus along with one other coach, the bus driver and 19 students, confirmed the event and stated there were no injuries to report. The team was returning from a game with Monte del Sol in Santa Fe. An official statement was scheduled to be made via the parent notification system at some point Oct. 4.
Española police officers are continuing to investigate the event.
This is a developing story. For more information, check back here at taosnews.com.