FACE OF BRAVERY Revealed: Hero Crawley College teacher who faced down ‘masked gunman’ before he fired ‘blank shots ‘ in rampage
THIS is the hero teacher who was one of the first to confront a masked gunman after he allegedly opened fire at a packed college.
Steve Hopkins, 51, raced out of his classroom after the shooter is said to have screamed “run for your lives” after repeatedly pointing a handgun at terrified students.
The mechanical engineering tutor was just yards away from the gunman when he allegedly fired shots directly at him at Crawley College yesterday afternoon.
Thankfully the weapon was firing blank ammunition and Mr Hopkins, a dad, was not injured during the terrifying incident.
The gunman was then tackled to the ground by a second heroic teacher and was quickly arrested by armed police.
Students praised Mr Hopkins and said his brave actions were “amazing”.
Elise Stellebotte, 17, who is studying for a motor mechanics diploma, said: “He pointed the pistol at my tutor, Steve Hopkins, and fired but they were just blanks thank God. He was so shocked.
“He continued ranting and shouting telling people to ‘Run, run’. He was trying to scare people, deliberately. Everyone was pretty scared.
“No-one knew what was going on. I didn’t feel too scared so I tried to approach him but we were told to get back in the classroom.”
It comes as dramatic pictures show the moment the gunman was arrested after allegedly firing a shot at a teacher.
The 18-year-old was detained by armed police after they were scrambled to the West Sussex college at 3pm yesterday.
Horrified witnesses said he fired several blank rounds before stabbing a teacher in the hand.
He pointed the pistol at my tutor, Steve Hopkins, and fired but they were just blanks thank God. He was so shocked."
Student Elise Stellebotte
Neighbours today described Mr Hopkins, from leafy Pulborough, West Sussex, as an “absolute hero”.
Mark Upton, 70, said Steve was a big guy who does free weights in his garage.
He added: “He’s a nice guy who keeps himself to himself. He’s a teacher of some sort I think.”
Another neighbour, who did not wish to be named, added: “He’s a very nice chap, he’s a good neighbour.
“He’s only recently started this job and used to work with children with learning difficulties in the past.
“I think he’s alright as he was in the garage this morning.
“He’s a really nice guy. He’s only recently started this job and used to work with children with learning difficulties.
“He’s an absolute hero. Who knows what could’ve happened if he didn’t stop that man.”
Meanwhile, neighbours living next to the alleged shooter's £300,000 home in Crawley last night claimed he is a student at the college.
It is believed the teenager, who is believed to have been on a bricklaying course at the campus, had previously been suspended.
Neighbours claim the suspect, nicknamed by a local as "Dan", was "having problems" studying at college.
The shooter started "ranting" before allegedly pointing the gun at a tutor – with his terrifying rampage only being brought to an end when a hero teacher tackled him to the ground.
One neighbour told The Sun: “I knew he was having some problems at the college.
“They weren’t letting him study as much as he wanted, or something like that.
“I know this is a problem for everybody in lockdown but he was having trouble with it.
“He was a good boy and I would never expect something like this from him.
Cops today praised the bravery of two members of Crawley College staff who tackled the armed suspect.
Sussex Police revealed the gun seized was a blank firing handgun.
They also revealed the 18-year-old, who was wrestled to the ground by a lecturer and a member of college support staff, was arrested on suspicion of firearms offences.
He remains in police custody.
Crawley College remains closed today and students and staff are being offered counselling following the shocking attack.
Terrified students spoke of their horror yesterday and said the gunman told pupils to “run for your lives”.
Another student, Eddie, 18, added: “It was absolutely terrifying. I heard shots ringing out and they were unmistakably gunshots. I saw the guy.
“He was screaming at people telling them: 'Run for your lives, run, run!' and jumping around all over the place then he fired some shots.”
Meanwhile, a social media user claiming to be the sibling of one of the two teachers who wrestled the suspect to the ground said they were proud of what he had done.
The anonymous person posted on a local community page and said their brother is now recovering at home.
They posted: “One of the teachers was my brother. Luckily he is absolutely fine and is home now.
"Very minor injuries to his hand and wrist. His colleague has the same minor hand injuries.
"There's a lot of speculation so I thought I'd let you know.
“Very proud of him though. Not sure many people would have done the same!"
Vicki Illingworth, Crawley College Principal, today praised the “courage, resilience and support” shown by her staff.
She said: “Our college community was shaken by the actions that occurred yesterday afternoon.
“I cannot praise the courage, resilience and support shown by our staff enough. They have been incredible and the care and compassion they shared with our students and with each other continues to fill me with admiration.
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“We can confirm two members of our staff did sustain some minor injuries, which were not gunshot wounds.
“Their heroic actions – and the rapid response of emergency services – helped to protect our college community. They are both at home, resting, and we ask members of the media to respect their privacy at this time.
“Our priority is and remains the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff. Counselling services are available for all students and staff.”