Devin Walski was carrying his cello to music practice at Catherine Everett Elementary on Tuesday afternoon when he noticed a woman standing in the school's play area. She was holding a knife, and her curly blond hair and flower skirt were covered in blood. She was cutting her head.
The sixth-grader said the image will give him nightmares for weeks.
"We saw the lady. She was, like, bleeding to death," Devin said after being released from school 90 minutes after the Modesto campus of 490 students and 50 staff was locked down near the end of the school day.
Classes will resume today, and police and mental health officers will be on campus to address any fears, especially those of students.
"I was afraid for all my friends in my classroom and the whole school and the little kids," Devin said. Sixth-graders also were outside playing kickball for PE class when the woman made her way onto the field.
Soon after Devin, 11, and two of his classmates saw the woman, they heard yard duty supervisor Trent Greer yell at them to get inside the school office. They ran inside. Office staff called 911 shortly after 2 p.m.
The unidentified woman had walked onto the campus. School officials distracted her while students were ushered indoors. When police arrived, the woman charged at them, they said. Police then shot her, and she died at a Modesto hospital.
When the shots rang out, teachers told students to crouch under their desks.
Because the incident occurred shortly before school let out, many parents didn't know anything had happened until they arrived to pick up children. They were met with police cars and motorcycles in front of the school. Streets were cordoned off surrounding the campus.
"It was pretty scary, really," Principal Michael Brady told the growing crowd fenced off by yellow crime scene tape. He and acting Police Chief Mike Harden told parents that no students or staff were hurt and very few children saw what happened.
"We're trying to protect the crime scene, so we'll be releasing students classroom by classroom," Harden told parents.
The hundreds of parents, relatives and friends who gathered at Everett's front gate remained calm while they waited — some of them two hours — for the children to be released.
"I just want my kids out," said Rhiannon Green, mother of Dylan, 9, and Chase, 5. She said she will most likely keep her children home the rest of the week.
The only other lockdowns at Everett that Green could remember were caused by police activity in the area.
"It's a good neighborhood. I know when something like this happens, they lock up the kids and they're safe," Green said.
Relief washed over Green when she greeted her sons. She said they were nervous, but calmed down a few hours later.
"I hugged them and picked them up and kissed them. I cried almost," she said.
Read the full story at the Modesto Bee.