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Investigation continues in school bus shooting

School superintendent 'sickened and horrified' by shooting

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Police from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office will follow all buses going to and from Grand Park Center, Mattie V. Rutherford Alternative Education Center, and James Weldon Johnson Academic Career Training Center, Friday. Extra officers will also be at these schools as well as grief counselors.

Police continued to investigate into the night Thursday, after two men shot at a Duval County school bus on 118th Street on Thursday afternoon, injuring two female students, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

The shooting happened about 4:20 p.m. near the intersection of 118th and Catoma streets. Police said the bus driver continued about 1.3 miles to the intersection of 118th and Blanding Boulevard before calling 911.

"A guy just walked by and shot up the bus," said the witness, who works at an insurance company in the area.

Police did take two juveniles into custody in connection with the shooting but have said that they do not think they are the shooters. 

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The two victims are in stable condition at UF Health Jacksonville. Police said the girls' parents were with them at the hospital. Police have not released the names of the victims, but the mothers of the girls have identified them as Ayana Shermans and Shakayla Singleton.

Friday morning, Ayana's mother, Shameika Asberry, said she hasn't been able to speak to her daughter yet as she remains unconscious, but doctors said Ayana will recover.

"She got shot in the back of the head. They were able to take the bullet out, but she does have a fractured skull," Asberry said. "The school board came around to talk to me last night. They apologized and said they were sorry for what happened." 

For hours after the shootings, police, some with rifles in hand, searched for blocks around the scene of the gunfire. Police only described the gunmen as black teenagers, one possibly not wearing a shirt. They asked anyone with information about the shooting to call Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith was told the bus driver and some of the students saw the two teens approaching the bus and reaching toward the waistbands of their pants. Some of the students ducked to the floor as the driver sped away.

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Marcus Grant told News4Jax his son was aboard the bus and was friends with one of the victims.

"He's upset right now to the point that he's talking crazy," Grant said.

At 6 p.m., about two dozen uninjured students were still on the bus being interviewed by detectives. Dozens of parents were standing by, waiting to pick up their children.

WATCH: Police statement | Students' perspective

Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti also went to the scene, saying he was sickened and horrified by the shooting.

"When we think of a school bus, it symbolizes the innocence of youth," Vitti said. "It's another example that violence is rampant in our community. Our children can't be children."

Vitti said one of the adult monitors on the school bus possibly recognized one of the two boys who fired as someone who has ridden the bus in the past. Vitti said school will be held Friday, but school board police will follow buses going to and from the three alternative schools where students on the bus attend. Extra counselors would also be at the schools, available to talk to students dealing with the trauma of the shooting.

UNCUT: Watch Superintendent Vitti's entire statement

A school district spokeswoman said bus No. 915 was carrying students from James Weldon Johnson Academic Career Training Center -- also known as Success Academy -- Mattie V. Rutherford Alternative Education Center and Grand Park Center.

Students are assigned to alternative schools when they have a major violation of the school's code of conduct -- violations that range from theft or damage at school to having alcohol, drugs or firearms on campus.

Late Thursday afternoon, Mayor Alvin Brown issued a statement about the shootings.

"As a father, today's violence directed at our children horrifies me. We cannot tolerate this kind of cowardice. This tragedy should strengthen our community's commitment to prevent violence and enforce the law. As mayor, I will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to carry out that mission."

The bus company also sent a statement late Thursday:

"Birnie Bus Service Inc.  is very grateful that there were no life-threatening injuries to the students. Our thoughts are with the two injured students.  Birnie Bus Service will continue to cooperate with  Duval Public Schools and JSO. The safety of our students is always our first priority."

News4Jax has multiple crews covering the aftermath of the shooting Thursday evening. This story will updated through the evening as more information becomes available.