Photo: USA TODAY Video Snip
Meagan Fitzgerald, Laurie Cipriano and John Bacon-USA TODAY
ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. -- A stunned community was preparing for a prayer vigil Sunday in support of Claire Davis, 17, who was clinging to life after being shot in the head Friday by a fellow student at Arapahoe High School.
The horse lover, babysitter and "great student" remains in critical condition Sunday at Littleton Adventist Hospital.
On Saturday night, hundreds of student, parents and community members filled a local park for a candlelight ceremony, expressing shock and pain at the tragedy that unfolded at the Centennial school.
"It didn't feel real until you see everybody (at the vigil)," said Summer Skrzypek. "She was a good friend and was always there if you needed her."
Students sang the school fight song while reminding each other that "Warriors" stick together. They shouted out words of encouragement, held a moment of silence and prayed.
Claire's neighbors were trying to process news of the shooting. Walter Bushnell toldThe Denver Post that Claire's grandmother told him the news.
"I just thought, 'Oh, my God, it's her' - it's just tragic," Bushnell said. "I'm just in shock."
Matt DeNero, who lives across the street from the Davis home, told the Post she was outgoing, a good athlete and great student.
"We've watched her grow up since she was 2," DeNero said.
On Saturday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson called Davis "a young woman of principal, She is a young woman of purpose.... She was an innocent victim of an evil act of violence."
Robinson said Karl Pierson, 18, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot, entered the school armed with a shotgun he bought legally, multiple rounds of ammunition strapped across his body, a machete and a backpack with three Molotov cocktails.
Pierson, in less than two minutes, fired five shots and ignited one of the Molotov cocktails before running to the back of the school library and killing himself, Robinson said. He credited the quick response of a sheriff's deputy assigned to the school with stopping a mass murder.
"The shooter knew the deputy was in the area," Robinson said at a news briefing. "We believe that the response ... was absolutely critical to the fact that we did not have additional injury or deaths."
Tracy Murphy, a librarian and debate team coach, was believed to have been the gunman's target in the shooting. He escaped the school. Murphy coached Pierson and disciplined him in September, but details were not available. Robinson said Claire's shooting appeared to be random.
Claire loves horses and is a member of the Colorado Hunter Jumper Association. Classmate August Clary said equestrian was a big part of her life. She has a horse named Graphite and when she wasn't at school, she spent hours training, August said.
"She was just a very sweet girl. She's really smart. Really bright," said August, who has known Claire since freshman year. He had government class with her Friday morning. "She wouldn't hurt a fly. She's just a really great girl and we hope she's gonna be okay."
The Davis family issued a statement Saturday saying Claire "has severe head trauma as a result of a gunshot. She needs your continued prayers."
The statement thanked family, friends, the community and the equestrian community for their outpouring of love and support, as well as the school for their continued support of the students and teachers."
The family also thanked first responders and medical personnel for "saving our daughter's life."