A math teacher has been credited with saving the lives of his students after he tackled a gunman who had opened fire on middle schoolers in Littleton, Colo., Tuesday, three miles from the site of the 1999 Columbine massacre.
Just after 3 p.m., when students were leaving class at Deer Creek Middle School, witnesses say a stranger appeared near the school with a high-powered rifle and began firing into the crowd without warning.
"He just pulled it [out] and started firing at different people," one student told "Good Morning America." "Then, like the math teacher came out and tackled him and then they grabbed the gun and that's really all I saw after that."
The teacher, 57-year-old David Benke, heard the first shot and immediately rushed the gunman, who got off one more shot before Benke tackled him to the ground.
One seventh-grade girl and an eight-grade boy were shot but are expected to survive. Benke told "Good Morning America" that he wished he had reached the gunman sooner.
"That's the thing that really bothers me," he said. "The second shot that he got off hit a former student of mine. I really like that kid. I really love that kid."
Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink said without Benke's actions, things could have been much worse.
"I know he feels bad about not being able to intervene sooner, but believe me when I say, I think he stopped what could have been a more tragic event than it was this afternoon," Mink told The Associated Press.
Police identified the shooter as 32-year-old Bruco Eastwood, a convicted felon. A motive is unclear, investigators said.
Menke told the AP he'd asked the assailant why he shot at the students, but the man didn't respond or "his responses didn't make a whole lot of sense," Menke said.
Eastwood's father, Bruco War Eagle Eastwood, told The Denver Post his son heard voices and was in financial trouble.
"I don't know why he did this, but he's always had problems," Eastwood said. "I don't know why, though. He's different, just different."
Gunshots, Haunting Echoes of Columbine
For the small community of Littleton, the gunshots were a horrific echo from a nightmare 11 years ago and three miles away when two students stalked through Columbine High School and fired on their classmates.
Before the student shooters turned their guns on themselves, 12 classmates lay dead.
More than a decade later, iconic images of carnage and panic have seared themselves into the town's memory.
Pictures that emerged from Tuesday's attack showed students running for cover, anxious parents hugging their kids tightly and a massive police response – a scene far too familiar for many residents.
"I haven't cried in 20 years, but I cried like a baby and thanked Jesus," parent Bob Wilson told The Denver Post. His daughter, Elizabeth, called him to tell him what happened. "This day could've been so much worse. You never know when your whole life could turn upside down."