'I think someone is dead': Student heard gunshots during New Mexico school shooting

Kaila White
The Republic |
Mikala Rezacm (left) with her daughter, Makenzie.

Mikala Rezac moved to remote Aztec, New Mexico, about four years ago. She stayed because her three children love it.

Her 8-year-old twins love their teachers and "like living in middle of nowhere, being in the quiet." Her oldest, 15-year-old sophomore Makenzie Rezac, has found a community in Aztec High School's JROTC program.

The city is small, about 7,000 people, and always felt safe.

So Rezac didn't panic at 8:22 a.m. when she received an emergency alert from Aztec High School.

"Usually when we get notifications like that, there’s a robber in town. That’s how small it is," she said.

Still, she texted her daughter and waited to hear back.

Meanwhile, in Makenzie Rezac's first-period world-history class, students heard they were on lockdown but stayed in their seats, assuming it was a drill.

When they heard an announcement that it was serious and doors should be locked, students scrambled to a corner and hid, staying silent.

They heard gunshots far away, then getting closer.

"I’ve never heard gunshots before in person," Makenzie Rezac said. "We all thought maybe someone was going around banging on lockers, trying to scare us, or moving furniture."

Soon, the sounds were right outside the door.

"When it came closer, I was like, 'Oh God, what’s going to happen? Is someone going to break in or shoot through the walls?' I was terrified. I was crying," she said. "I didn’t have my phone with me and the only thing I wanted to do is text my mom and tell her, 'Things are going on and if something happens, I love you.' "

Rezac was too afraid to grab her phone from where her teacher stores phones during the class, next to the door.

She had no idea how long there was shooting. Maybe a few minutes, maybe half an hour.

Then it stopped. The students grabbed their phones, texting furiously and silently, afraid to make noise.

"Mom, I am okay," she wrote. "There was a school shooting right outside my class room, Im not sure what happened yet. I can not call you yet. Im just really scared. They got the person who had the gun but we have to stay in my class room."

'I think someone is dead'

Mikala Rezac said she then "went into mama bear mode."

"Just grab my coat and my keys and I took off, ran out the door," she said.

She texted her daughter to stay calm, that she was on her way. She stopped at her best friend's house so they could caravan the 30-minute drive to Aztec High, ready to pile as many kids as she could into her roomy Chevrolet Equinox and bring them home.

"We are evacuating, but its going to be a while," her daughter texted. "We can’t look to the right... I think someone is dead."

In the classroom, the teacher told everyone to walk out in a single-file line and that they weren't allowed to look to the right. Makenzie Rezac pulled her hoodie over her eyes to block out as much as she could.

"I was already pretty scared, and I knew if I were to look, I probably wouldn’t be able to handle it," she said.

They walked outside and then to a gym, where they were divided into boys and girls and patted down. Students scrambled to find their friends or figure out who was hurt, and rumors spread.

"There were rumors saying there were 15 students injured, which put everybody in more of a panic than really what we needed," she said. "There were rumors there were other shooters running through the hills and cops were chasing after them, or that (the shooting) was a teacher against a student.

"It put everything in more of a stressful place than what it really needed to be. It freaked out everybody. It kind of made me upset that people were making up stories at a time like this."

As Rezac waited in the gym, her mother sped to the Aztec Police Department, where about 100 parents were waiting. An officer also said 15 kids were injured, Mikala Rezac said, which worried the crowd.

Reunited in the conference center

Police escort buses moving students and faculty from Aztec High School after a shooting Dec. 7, 2017, in Aztec, N.M.

The parents heard students were being taken to the McGee Park Convention Center, so they went there and waited. When her daughter walked in, Rezac couldn't help but push her way toward her.

"I knew she was OK and so I think, just, it was great to see her and, of course, we cried and hugged," she said. "She wanted to get out of there, and I wanted to get her out. I wanted to get her to be with our family."

She said they're going to process the incident "day by day," but that she thinks her daughter will be OK.

"I also have to worry about 8-year-olds. My concern with them is they don’t need to know what really happened," Rezac said. "My son told me when I picked them up they think it was a robber that came to the school."

Both mother and daughter said they thought authorities handled the situation well.

"I’m just kind of sad that this happened because I know there’s a lot of people who are scared and there are people who are scared to even go to school," she said. "None of us saw this happening, especially in Aztec. Nothing goes on in Aztec."


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