‘Preston loved everyone. He had no enemies.’ Family of slain student speaks

Preston Cope was one of two students killed Tuesday in a shooting at Marshall County High School.
Preston Cope was one of two students killed Tuesday in a shooting at Marshall County High School. Collier Funeral Home

Preston Cope, one of the 15-year-old victims of Tuesday’s shooting at Marshall County High School, died during the flight to the hospital, his father told the Courier-Journal.

The boy’s parents, Brian and Teresa Cope, sped past cars and ran red lights to reach the high school and tell him goodbye as he was on the stretcher, according the Courier-Journal reported.

“There’s so many obstacles that could have prevented me from getting there,” Brian Cope told the Courier-Journal. “I could’ve been in a wreck, I could’ve had a flat tire, anything. But I’m firm in my faith that God guided us safely through all of that to get us there, so we could speak to our baby and just let him know we loved him.”

His family said Preston was passionate about U.S. history, loved reading and was a quick learner, the Courier-Journal reported.

Preston was one of two students killed when a 15-year-old classmate entered the school before classes started Tuesday and opened fire in the commons. Bailey Holt died at the high school. A total of 23 people were injured, according to revised numbers released Wednesday night.

University of Louisville men’s basketball coach David Padgett expressed his condolences Thursday in a video message to the Holt family on behalf of the team.

“Even though she is gone, Bailey’s presence and spirit will always be around even in the darkest of times,” Padgett said.

He also encouraged Bailey’s younger sister, Lily, to “please hang in there.”

Visitation for Bailey and Preston will be 4 to 9 p.m. Central time Saturday inside the gymnasium at the high school. Preston’s funeral will be at 3 p.m. Central time Sunday in the gymnasium after additional visitation that starts at 1 p.m.

Preston’s baseball coach, Rob McDonald, said it was evident that Preston was respected and well-liked by his teammates.

Preston’s family released a statement Thursday to WPSD and thanked the teachers, staff, first-responders, the community and the entire nation for their outpouring of love and support.

“Preston loved everyone. He had no enemies. He was caring, compassionate, and had the biggest heart. He loved life. He loved his family,” the family said in the statement. “Our hearts go out to all of the victims and the students that had to witness this senseless tragedy. We know that everyone did everything they could do to help Preston. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with everyone that was affected, and we ask that you continue to respect our privacy at this time.”

"We need to be smarter" about how we protect students and teachers, Gov. Matt Bevin said Thursday, but the solution isn't yet clear. Bevin addressed new school-safety legislation while touring the Recovery For Men Hope Center in Lexington.

The suspect appeared in front of a judge Thursday morning at the Marshall County Judicial Center, assistant county attorney Jason Darnall said. Paperwork would be filed by the end of the week to move the case to Circuit Court Darnall said. The prosecution is seeking to charge the 15-year-old as an adult.

Marshall County High will be back in session Friday for the first time since the shooting. There would be a school assembly at 8 a.m., WPSD reported.

Preston’s family is using prayer to get through this difficult time and encouragedothers to do the same.

“Pray for these kids that witnessed this, and their strength, what they endured that day. Enable them to live and go on through this,” Teresa Cope told the Courier-Journal.

Four Marshall County High School students describe the shootings that killed two classmates and injured 18 others.

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, who has attended the Marshall County Hoopfest, reacts to the school shooting in that community Tuesday.

Mike Stunson: 859-231-1324, @mike_stunson

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