Ware Shoals mourned Wednesday — the tight-knit community was rocked with the sudden loss of a student who shot himself outside of the high school.

During a midday press conference, Ware Shoals Police Chief Bryan Louis said the student and a friend arrived late at school, and a school employee approached them. The student appeared to have a vaping device on him, so the school’s principal and a safety coordinator approached the student to confiscate the device.

When the student stepped out of the vehicle, an employee noticed a handgun in his waistband and confronted him about it, Louis said. The student walked backwards away from the employee, then pulled the handgun and shot himself in the head.

The student was unresponsive when law enforcement arrived on scene. He was taken to Self Regional Medical Center where he died.

Louis described the gun as a small-caliber semiautomatic handgun. He said he had not confirmed how the student got the gun, and the friend who was with the student told police she didn’t know he was armed.

The high school was on lockdown for a brief span after the shooting. A state Department of Natural Resources officer was first on scene, along with a Greenwood County deputy, but Ware Shoals police also received help from the State Law Enforcement Division investigating this case. Officers were scanning the grass outside a building beside the school with metal detectors, trying to find the shell casing from the gunshot.

Louis was talking with reporters while officers scanned the grass when he received word the student had died at the hospital.

“We’re a very small-knit community and everybody knows everybody here, so we’re reeling right now because we care about each other,” Superintendent Fay Sprouse said at an earlier press conference. “There’s been a lot of prayers today, and a lot of people supporting people, and that’s the way it should be.”

The school was taken off lockdown before noon, and parents were allowed to pick students up, though classes continued at their normal schedule. Sprouse said school counselors were available to help talk with students and staff as needed. She said she couldn’t release any information about the student, and as of about 2:50 p.m. the Greenwood County Coroner’s Office had not released any information identifying him.