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Freeman shooting survivors upbeat, thankful says superintendent

Randy Russell also praised the janitor, a military veteran, who stopped the suspect. 

The superintendent of Freeman schools says he visited the three girls who survived Wednesday's shooting at the high school and described them as upbeat and thankful.

"It was great to see all three girls smile and I got to give each of them a hug and a kiss and tell them I love them," said Superintendent Randy Russell to reporters on Thursday before a meeting with students and parents. "To see their parents or grandparents in high spirits and see them in great spirits, I think is uplifting to everybody."

Russell said classes will resume Monday. He is working with staff on the best ways to move forward, and that counseling is being made available to staff, parents, and students.

"As long as they need it," Russell said.

One of the people praised as a hero is the janitor who got the suspect to give up, Joe Bowen. Russell said Bowen is a military veteran who ran toward the threat.

"He knows the kids. He loves the kids, and he was one of the very first people that were there. And I have no doubt in my mind that Joe Bowen was a big reason why things weren't worse than they actually turned out," said Russell, who describes Bowen's heart as being the size of Texas. "Joe did what Joe does every day, and that's that he was here for kids."

Russell also thanked officials from the Marysville School District, who immediately came across the state to help. A shooting at the high school there in 2014 took the lives of five students and injured another.

"It's like the older brother having to take the younger brother or sister with them for a walk, and they've been with us a lot," said Russell. "What we have learned from them is that there is an entire process that other school districts, unfortunately, have had to go through and they have been holding our hands,"

That team from Marysville has been giving advice going forward.

"What do we do tomorrow? What do we do the next day? What do we do the week after that? What about next month?" Russell said.

Russell believes the community will endure.

"I know our that Freeman family, our community will move forward. it was a tough day but, you know what? We'll make it work. We'll make it work for kids. That's what we always do in Freeman," Russell said.

Some of the focus going forward is figuring out why this happened.

Russell said if the district receives information that a student is a danger, the protocol is to contact the parents and have the student undergo a mental health evaluation to determine that they are not a threat to others or themselves. Russell said the district does not employ any mental health professionals.

He would not discuss whether any staff may have missed signals or failed to report something suspicious.

Citing privacy rules, Russell also said he would not answer questions about the students involved. But when asked about the student who was killed by name, Russell praised him, albeit briefly.

"Sam Strahan was a really neat kid. Quiet. His sister was also here, and I'll just leave it at that," Russell said.

Friday night's football game between Freeman and Medical Lake was expected to be played as of Friday morning.

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