Alabama School Shooting Kills 17-Year-Old Girl

Witnesses say another student was "showing off his gun."

WaPo (“Alabama school shooting leaves one student dead, another teen injured“):

One student was killed and another teen was injured when a gun discharged at an Alabama high school Wednesday in what police described as an accidental shooting.

The incident took place at Huffman High in Birmingham between 3:15 and 3:30 p.m., and sparked a brief lockdown at the school, according to police and school officials. Birmingham Police Chief Orlando Wilson said the shooting left a 17-year-old girl dead and a 17-year-old boy wounded.

“At this particular time, we’re considering it accidental until the investigation takes us elsewhere,” the chief said at an evening news conference. He would not say if the suspected shooter was a student, but added: “It’s not a situation where someone from the outside came into the school.” (“Huffman High School shooting: Courtlin Arrington killed; Birmingham police question injured teen“):

A Huffman High School senior was killed and another injured when gunfire erupted inside a classroom at the east Birmingham school Wednesday afternoon.

Killed was a 17-year-old girl who was going to graduate in May, had already been accepted into college and had dreams to become a nurse. “We’re not just talking about some person, we’re talking about losing a part of our future,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “Our hearts are heavy.”

She was identified on multiple social media accounts as Courtlin Arrington. However, her name was not confirmed by authorities because officials said some of her family had not yet been notified.

Arrington was given CPR at the scene and en route to the hospital, but the efforts to revive her failed.

Also wounded in the shooting was a 17-year-old boy, a junior and member of the football team. Both were rushed to UAB Hospital in separate Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service trucks.

The boy was initially said to be critically injured, but hospital officials by 7:30 p.m. said he was seen in the emergency department and was no longer at the hospital. He was shot in the leg, and was later questioned at police headquarters. About an hour earlier, a woman at the police station who said she was the boy’s mother, said she had not been told his condition, but she did not believe he had a gun.


Police said at least two shots were fired but are still trying to sort out a timeline of events and what led to the gunfire. The gun used in the shooting was recovered from inside the school and Acting Birmingham Police Chief Orlando Wilson said they still believe the shooting may have been accidental.


Sources said a male student was “showing off” his gun when it discharged, striking the female student. He then accidentally shot himself as he was putting the gun away, according to sources. Police officials did not confirm that account, or any of the other stories making the rounds.

“We’re not saying he shot her, we’re not saying he didn’t shoot her,” the chief said. “We’re asking those questions ourselves so we can determine exactly what happened.”

The chief said he had not been told of any kind of argument, fight or struggle preceding the shooting incident.

While there are many arguments against arming the public as a defense against relatively rare spree shootings, the strongest is illustrated by this case: the multiplication of the likelihood of tragic accidents. One promising young life has been lost and another forever scarred with guilt.

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, Policing, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. JohnMcC says:

    Sure could find a use for a well-financed organization with a strong emphasis on teaching people how to handle firearms safely.

  2. KM says:

    “We’re not saying he shot her, we’re not saying he didn’t shoot her,” the chief said. “We’re asking those questions ourselves so we can determine exactly what happened.”

    And this right here is the problem. He clearly shot her and himself, that is not in question. Intent is up in the air but the physical act was committed. However, people have to tapdance around basic descriptions of actions because otherwise the gun nuts start screaming about how “guns don’t kill, people kill”. Yet they are the first to say “Oops, looks like an accident, oh well!” That gun culture has such a strict hold over us – to the point authorities have to hedge their language over what obviously happened to not offend fanatics – is why these things keep happening over and over again. For such a supposed safe tool, it sure does kill a lot of innocents.

    No charges get filed and people walk away having essentially committed a free murder. They’re not “accidents” by any stretch of the imagination and yet the phrase gets trotted out whenever a toddler shoots himself after stealing a gun from Mommy’s purse, a hunter shooting before looking or a promising young woman dies due to a some idiot flashing his piece.

    Hot Fuzz got it right:

    Danny: Hey, why can’t we say “accident” again?
    Angel: Because “accident” implies there’s nobody to blame.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Guns in schools? What could go wrong?

    I’m of the mind that this is, fundamentally, a supply-side problem – over 300 million weapons in supply suggest to me that it is inevitable that mass shootings and ‘event’s like this will happen periodically throughout any year. More guns allowed in public, in schools equal more probability that similar occurrences will happen.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    @KM: Similarly, if someone mentions 30,000 people are shot dead in this country every year, many of my coworkers would immediately counter that 20,000 wee suicides. If I replied, “What’s your point? Are you saying they weren’t shot to death.” I’d get looks like I was speaking Greek. That they shot themselves made it not count in a way that was somehow obvious to them.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08: In fairness, depending on what point you’re making, that the lion’s share of shooting deaths from firearms are self-inflicted may well be germane.

  6. KM says:

    @James Joyner :
    Eh, semantics. 20,000 suicides can be considered 20,000 self-murders if they’re only counting “homicides”. I’ve always found it odd people killed by hunters don’t seem to qualify as homicides but are almost always “accidents”. Dead’s still dead and these dead folks didn’t even chose to get dead so they definitely should “count”.

    Ultimately, it’s about downplaying the inherently fatal nature of the tool’s use. Guns are not designed to wound, they’re design to kill thus the notion of “stopping power”. Acting like a tool doesn’t achieve its intended purpose upon use and that the deaths just “happen” because of people is one of the more sinister arguments in the gun nut’s tool kit. Nobody in the right mind would argue that nukes or ricin don’t kill, people do but for some reason guns have this mythical ability to be exists as fatally non-fatal till a bad person shows up.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:
    @KM: Just saw your response, but I’ll post this also. KM made the point that the police are making a thing of ‘did he shoot her or was it an accident’, when even if he did not mean to shoot her, apparently he did shoot her, then himself. KM then went on to make a point about calling this sort of thing an “accident”. In racing we often didn’t say “accident” we said “incident”, making the point that once we’d decided to race, that sort of thing was not entirely unexpected.

    I didn’t state any point about guns. My point is about language, and it’s use by conservatives. George Lakoff observed that conservatives are well able to think through complex causation, but they don’t. Their default is to look at everything as a matter of simple morality. For them suicide is a morally different thing than murder or “accidents”. 30,000 fatalities annually from gunshot is a simple statement of fact, with no moral implication. But conservatives can’t hear it without applying some moral judgement.

    That’s why Republicans can say things like ‘cutting taxes reduces the deficit’ without being laughed off the stage. I hear ‘two – two = four’, they hear ‘good thing = good thing’.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @KM: @gVOR08: The common law always made a distinction for mens rea. Shooting someone through negligence is different than shooting someone with intent to kill. But, yes, we often use the term “accident” when we should really say “negligence,” “carelessness,” “recklessness” or something that implies culpability.

    Similarly, while suicides indeed lead to death, it’s a different category than homicide for obvious reasons. And, if the conversation is about preventing mass shootings, criminal violence, or the like, then mixing suicides into the statistics muddies the waters. If, however, the point is simply that guns are an incredibly efficient tool for killing then, sure, including suicides makes sense.

  9. Kathy says:

    Regarding suicides, start with a simple question:

    Regardless of means, how does the suicide rate in the US compare to other developed countries with stricter gun laws?

    Next, look at the means.