Shock follows shooting of middle school students caught in part on video

Published 4:00 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

Yadi Cardenas did not send her son to Thomas Jefferson Middle School Friday.

While the 7th grader tried to maintain a positive outlook following a Thursday afternoon shooting that injured two students, she could tell he was experiencing real fear.

She was, too.

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She was leaving the school on Jefferson Drive with her child Thursday when she heard sirens and saw an ambulance. She hadn’t heard gunshots, but by the time she reached her house, she had been tagged in a slew of Facebook notifications under a video that showed a fight and a shooting.

“I think it’s part of the culture with the kids where there’s a fight and everybody takes out their devices and starts recording it,” she said. “Before I got home, my oldest two had already seen it.”

Cardenas watched it, as well.

“They took one of the injured kids into the grocery store,” she said. “I saw when the father of that child got to the store. He was running and hugged his child. He was crying. As a parent, it was disheartening. I was broken.”

Port Arthur Police personnel on the scene of a shooting Feb. 10, 2022. (Mary Meaux/The News)

The crime

The shooting that left two middle school students injured occurred just after 4:13 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot of a shopping center across from the campus.

Later that day, the Port Arthur Police Department arrested 17-year-old Jose Cortez. As of Friday afternoon, he was listed as an inmate in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility with $200,000 in bonds on two charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Jose Cortez

The Port Arthur Independent School District released a statement saying the injured students were enrolled at Jefferson Middle School, but the alleged shooter was not a PAISD student.

Someone is seen briefly with a gun in his hand in the video that depicts a chaotic scene starting with a fight between two teenagers. As chants of both fear and encouragement can be heard from the crowd around them, one of the teenagers throws the other to the ground before pinning them up against the wall of the shopping center.

A school official attempts to break up the fight right before two gunshots are fired.

Superintendent Mark Porterie went to the scene after the shooting and was seen talking with school staff and police.

And as depicted in the video when a person with a gun is seen directly behind a school official, the concern is both for students and staff.

Porterie said Friday morning that the district is working as a team, and they are “all in it together.”

Anytime an incident occurs on or off campus that involves students or staff, he added, they are prepared to assist.

PAPD Det. Sadie Guedry said, as of Friday, there had been no changes to the condition of the injured students.

The aftermath

Friday morning a Port Arthur Police unit was visible at the school, with bits of crime tape on the pavement across the street.

Directly between the two was a sign warning the area was a gun-free, drug-free school zone.

Although, Guedry said, the warning that often elevates a person’s charge won’t be a factor in this shooting, as aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is already a first-degree felony.

“Say that shooting didn’t occur, but had that child been found with a gun, a higher charge would be filed on him,” Guedry said.

The police unit on campus was part of a crisis intervention plan implemented Friday, according the district’s statement.

Those precautions include:

  • Adding additional security on and around the campus.
  • Dismissing students at staggering times.
  • Assembling school counselors and social workers for students in need.
  • Faculty and staff will monitor students at all times, including lunches and in between classes.

But Cardenas believes it’s the responsibility of everyone in the community to help prevent such violence.

“The schools cannot do everything,” she said Friday morning. “We are all at fault for what happened yesterday. We all need to do our part and take responsibility. We have to stop being reactive and start being proactive. Why wait for something to happen to do something about it?”

– Mary Meaux contributed to this story