Michael Malone was in his office at Pepsi Center reviewing the gameplan for Tuesday night’s pivotal Game 5 against the Portland Trail Blazers when his wife called him and delivered some sobering news.
Another school shooting had occurred, this one happening just two minutes from where Malone and his family live in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and only 25 minutes south of the arena. His thoughts immediately went to his two daughters, who don’t attend STEM School, where the tragedy occurred Tuesday afternoon that killed one child and left several others injured, but another one in the area.
“The thing that makes you angry is (my wife’s) telling me how scared my daughters are, in their schools, texting her because they don’t know what’s going on,” Malone said an hour and 45 minutes before the Nuggets hosted the Trail Blazers. “It’s a lockout. Where’s this shooter? Is it at our school? Some other school? When kids go to school, they should be going to school to learn, to have fun, be with their friends, not worry about an active shooter. We’re all part of it. We all have families, we all have kids, nieces, nephews, whatever it is. It’s just frustrating, and it gets you angry because it hits home, and that’s how I felt today.”
The shooting comes seven days after a man shot six people at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, killing two, and just last month hundreds of schools in Colorado were closed as law enforcement searched for a Florida woman who they said had made threats ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting that claimed 13 lives, which is about seven miles from the site of Tuesday’s tragedy.
STEM School in Highlands Ranch has 1,850 students — 550 elementary age students, 700 in middle school and 600 high school students, according to the district.
“It’s not just Highlands Ranch. It’s not Colorado. This is an epidemic, and it continues to happen, and that’s the frustrating thing,” Malone said while noting that he and his wife know families with kids who attend STEM. “How do you stop it? Again, gun control, laws, whatever it might be. I’m not a politician, I don’t want to sit up here on a soapbox. I just want everybody back in Highlands Ranch to know we are with you. And that’s really important for them to know.”
“That’s the community that I live in, and I know the thoughts and prayers are never enough, but one student was killed, eight were injured today and from myself, our team, our organization, our thoughts and prayers are with all those families, students, school administrators, everybody that was there today. It’s a tragedy.
“The second thing I would like to say is just a thank you to the Douglas County Sheriff’s department that was there on top of it in a matter of minutes and all of the first responders that were there, allowing that not to become worse than it was. It’s a shame. My girls have been in a lockout twice in the last month. I’m not a politician, I don’t have all the answers but something has to change. I just wanted to make sure I acknowledged what happened today, in my backyard and all of those families are on my mind.”
Last season in Milwaukee, Malone addressed the Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida, which occurred a day before the Nuggets’ 134-123 win over the Bucks when Nikola Jokic recorded what’s believed to be the fastest triple-double in league history.
“My wife was a school teacher, I have a fifth grader and a seventh grader, so you think about that first and you’re sad for all those affected down in Florida,” Malone said last year. “And then that emotion turns to anger and frustration because it keeps happening, it keeps happening. What are we doing to prevent that? What are we doing to stop it? … The fact that a troubled 17-year-old kid who was expelled from school was legally able to go out and buy and an automatic weapon is absurd. I understand this country was found on certain rights and the right to bear arms, but assault rifles? How many times are we going to see the same story and nothing changes?”
He’s not sure how he’ll discuss this shooting, which occurred in his family’s neighborhood, with his two daughters.
“I’m texting my daughter telling her she’s going to be OK. I don’t even know if she will be OK,” Malone said Tuesday. “This is every parent’s worst nightmare, something that when you see your kids go to school in the morning, it’s, ‘Have a great day,’ and you just assume everything is going to be alright, and as we all know, it’s not. So you figure it out.”