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A 15-year-old student opened fire with a handgun inside a rural Kentucky high school on Tuesday morning, killing two of his classmates, injuring 19 and sending hundreds fleeing for safety.
The shooter, who has not been identified, entered a common area at Marshall County High School in Benton shortly before 8 a.m. local time, pulled out a pistol and began firing at students, witnesses told local media.
"I see this guy draw from his side and he pulls out a pistol. I didn’t even know what was going on. And then it registered. About the time it registered, this guy was sitting here pulling the trigger into all of us," student Bryson Conkwright told TV station WKRN.
"I can hear the gunshots. He was shooting in our group," said Conkwright, showing where a bullet grazed his hand.
Police were seen leading a teenager away in handcuffs and said the suspect will be charged with murder. It was the nation's first fatal school shooting of 2018. 
Students ran for their lives out of Marshall County High School, jumping into cars and running down a highway.
"They was running and crying and screaming," said Mitchell Garland, who provided shelter to between 50 and 100 students inside his nearby business.
"They was just kids running down the highway. They were trying to get out of there."
A half-dozen ambulances and numerous police cars converged on the school, along with officers in black fatigues carrying assault rifles.
Senator Mitch McConnell sent staffers and the state's governor, Matt Bevin, rushed to the scene.
Parents left their cars on both sides of an adjacent road, desperately trying to find their teenagers.
At Marshall County High, 14 students were hit by gunfire, two of them fatally, officials said. A 15-year-old girl was pronounced dead at the scene, and a 15-year-old boy died at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center's trauma unit in Nashville, Bevin and hospital officials said.
Four of the other gunshot patients brought to Vanderbilt were expected to survive, doctors said. Less severely wounded students were taken to other hospitals. Another five students suffered non-gunshot injuries, Bevin said, bringing the total number of injured to 17. 
The shooter will be charged with murder and attempted murder, Mr Bevin said. Police did not release his identity, nor did they describe a motive.
"This is a wound that is going to take a long time to heal. For some in this community will never fully heal," Mr Bevin said.
After the shooting, signs of chaos in the school were abundant, Marshall County Attorney Jeff Edwards told the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper.
"To walk in, the backpacks laying around, the phones laying around, going off … it’s indescribable,” he was quoted as saying.
Five of the wounded were flown about 120 miles (193 kilometers) to Nashville, Tennessee's Vanderbilt University Medical Center, spokeswoman Tavia Smith said.
Kentucky State Police are not looking for any other suspects in connection with the shooting. 
The attack marked the year's first fatal school shooting, 23 days into 2018, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive.
Mr Bevin expressed his shock that a high school shooting could "happen in a small, close-knit community like Marshall County."
Marshall County High School is about 30 minutes from Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, where a 1997 mass shooting killed three and injured five. 
Michael Carneal, then 14, opened fire there about two years before the fatal attack at Columbine High School in Colorado, ushering in an era when mass school shootings have become much more common.
Meanwhile, in the small North Texas town of Italy, a 15-year-old girl was recovering Tuesday after police said she was shot by a 16-year-old classmate in her high school cafeteria on Monday, sending dozens of students scrambling for safety.

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