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Shooting delays school dismissal

(Ran C, T, F editions of Tampa Bay and State)

Two boys with BB guns randomly shot at school buses and cars approaching the River Ridge school complex as classes were about to end Friday afternoon.

The shootings injured no one, but they prompted confusion and concern among students, family members, school officials and other residents. As word of the shootings spread, worried parents either rushed to the school or called there to find out what had happened.

The incident started as virtually empty buses approached the school to pick up students about 1:45 p.m.

"As the buses came in, we started getting reports that windows were being hit with something," said principal Robert Dorn. "I canceled dismissal. I would not release (the students) until I knew it was safe."

Actually, school officials had been concerned about safety before Friday's shootings. Several people reported that while they were driving to the school Thursday, something struck and dented their cars.

When trouble started again Friday, students were told to wait in their classrooms, as sheriff's deputies, K-9 units and a helicopter searched the nearby woods for the culprits.

"All the shots came from one location at the De Cubellis Road just east of River Ridge Road," said Lt. Sandy Reed of the Sheriff's Office. "We shut down all traffic in and out until we had the area secured."

About 4:30 p.m., authorities found two teenagers who admitted shooting at the vehicles "just to do it," Reed said. Authorities would not release the names of the boys, who apparently are not River Ridge students, she said.

Sixteen of the school's 38 buses were hit, said school transportation spokesman Mike Park. Nine had broken windows, and dents were found on many. The Sheriff's Office said seven private vehicles were hit as well.

While the vehicle damage was minimal, parents' worries were not.

Linda Cadovius was stopped by deputies as she drove to the school to get her two sons.

"They said it wasn't serious," Cadovius said. "I said, "If can't get to my kids, it's serious.'

"

Many parents wandered around the school grounds Friday afternoon. Their concern began when the kids didn't make it home on time. It got worse when they found out why.

"My nephew called and said, "Aunt Ro, there's been a shooting,'

" said Rosemary Kerr, who was searching for her son and daughter. "You expect this in Chicago or New York, but not here."

Dorn said the school was deluged by calls, and extra people gathered to answer phones. He said most parents understood why he kept the students inside. Now he hopes they still trust the school with their children.

"The school itself is safe," Dorn said. "I want to reassure them: The school is safe."

The last buses left River Ridge about two hours after they arrived. Because the buses serve other schools, River Ridge students were not the only ones affected by the delay, Park said. Students from about one-third of Pasco schools were late getting home Friday, Park said.

"We still have kids at school yet," he said about 4:45 p.m., "waiting for (a bus) to take them home."

_ Staff writer Robert Keefe contributed to this report.

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