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Kemper Elementary School In Cortez Locked Down And Evacuated After Shooting At Nearby House. Suspect Arrested in Arizona.

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Ellis Berry
/
KSJD
Students evacuate Kemper Elementary School on Wednesday after a shooting at a residence adjacent to the school.

Kemper Elementary School in Cortez was locked down and evacuated on Wednesday due to an armed standoff between police and a male suspect at a house adjacent to the school.

All students were evacuated safely and taken to the Cortez Public Library where school busses took them home or their parents picked them up

Authorities used ambulances to cover the students and block line of sight from the crime scene during the evacuation.

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Ellis Berry
The house on Montezuma Avenue adjacent to Kemper Elementary School where the shooting took place.

Police were first called just before 11:00 Wednesday morning regarding a domestic dispute at the residence, which is on the corner of North Adams St and Montezuma Ave.

During the dispute shots were fired.

According to the County Office of Emergency Management, a female victim was shot in the leg and was transported to the hospital.

Her condition was not immediately clear.

Law enforcement descended on the residence in just seconds from the first call, according to Cortez Police Chief Vernon Knuckles.

Heavily armed officers then surrounded the residence, trying to negotiate a peaceful surrender with the unknown male suspect, who was presumed to be barricaded inside.

The officers prepared riot shields, and even a remote-controlled robot, for possible entry into the building.

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Ellis Berry
Cortez Police Chief Vernon Knuckles speaks to reporters at the scene of the shooting on Wednesday.

But according to Chief Knuckles, after an hours-long standoff, officers received information indicating that the suspect was most likely no longer in the house.

After that, the situation was no longer considered as dangerous, and law enforcement began processing the scene for evidence. 

Teachers were also allowed to return to Kemper Elementary to retrieve their belongings. 

Although law enforcement planned to search inside the house, a judge denied a requested search warrant so they were not able to enter.

During the standoff, three individuals apart from the suspect - a child, a second female, and a male - were removed from the house unharmed.

A handgun and at least one bullet casing were also recovered from the front yard.

Law enforcement officials from the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office, the Cortez Police Department, and the Colorado State Patrol were on scene, with support from the Cortez Fire Department and other emergency services.

Montezuma Avenue was closed for much of the day between Harrison St. and North Park St,

And the High School Homecoming Parade, which was scheduled for Wednesday evening, was cancelled due to recommendations from the Cortez Police Department.

The investigation is ongoing.

Updated: September 17, 2021 at 9:00 AM MDT
A 43 year-old male was arrested in connection with this incident and is accused of violating a protection order and possessing of a weapon by a previous offender, according to the arrest affidavit.
Lucas is the News Director and host of NPR's Morning Edition for KSJD Community Radio. His work focuses on serving the public of the Four Corners with responsible, factual reporting.