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Arapahoe High School shooting: 17-year-old girl shot in head is in a coma

Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson holds a picture of Claire Davis the 17-year-old student that was shot during a briefing Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo.  (NBC News)
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson holds a picture of Claire Davis the 17-year-old student that was shot during a briefing Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo. (NBC News)
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Updated: 12/16/2013 9:05 am
COLORADO (NBC) - The 17-year-old girl shot point-blank in the head at a Colorado high school — who is being described as "one of the nicest people" — is in a coma and in critical condition, her family said Sunday.

Claire Esther Davis, a senior at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., was wounded Friday in an 80-second attack by student gunman Karl Halverson Pierson, 18, who walked in the building packing a shotgun and a grudge over being benched on the debate team, police said.

The victim's family had previously said she suffered severe head trauma, but provided more details on her condition Sunday and thanked emergency workers who rushed her to the hospital.

"Claire remains in critical condition. She is stable, but is in a coma," they said in a statement released through Littleton Adventist Hospital.

"The first responders got Claire to the right place, at the right time, and the doctors and hospital staff are doing a wonderful job taking care of her.

"We appreciate your continued good thoughts and prayers, and will provide updates as her condition improves."

Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Claire was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and that the motive for the shooting was retaliation against a staff member.

Debate team captain Joe Redmond said Pierson had grown angrier and angrier in recent weeks, and the target of his ire was debate coach and school librarian Tracy Murphy.

"Speech and debate was his life and the fact that he wasn't there crushed him a little bit and made him really tense and angry," Redmond told NBC News.

"Karl and Murphy did not get along and whatever it was escalated to a death threat.

"I did try to help him and didn't get to him," Redmond added. "No one was able to get to him. At the end of the day, that’s what happened."

Pierson showed up at school at midday Friday with a pump-action shotgun, ammunition strapped to his chest, a machete and Molotov cocktails — and headed for the library.

Alerted to the threat, Murphy left the building, which police praised as a tactical move to lure Pierson outside.

Pierson fired one round down a hallway and then shot Claire, who just happened to be sitting nearby with a friend. He killed himself as a security officer closed in on him, police said.

"His intent was evil and his evil intent was to harm multiple individuals," the sheriff said.

Redmond said he was trying to reconcile the cold-blooded crime with the teenager he knew.

"It's indefensible what he did," he said.

"The Karl that I knew was a good person but obviously the Karl who came into the school on Friday was not."

Murphy was not hurt. A statement from the Littleton Public Schools he had "asked asked that we share his and his family's concern for all of the victims of this tragedy."

Meanwhile, Arapahoe students are praying for Claire, who was described as outgoing, athletic and an excellent student. She loves horses and recently placed second in an equestrian competition, The Denver Post reported,

A neighbor told the newspaper Claire is also the best babysitter in the community.

"She took care of our 5-year-old," said one man. "She was well-loved. I believe she wanted to go into nursing — I know she had already been accepted to a number of colleges already."

Fellow student Avery Griggs, a sophomore, said she is "one of the nicest people I've met at Arapahoe."

"She is amazing and so sweet," Avery told the Post.

Friends and well-wishers posted prayers on Twitter, and some students collected money to help pay for her medical expenses.

"I feel like it's going to make us a stronger senior class and school as a whole," Chris Davis, an Arapahoe senior who helped organize the fundraising effort.

By Ron Mott and Tracy Connor, NBC News
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