MCLOUTH, Kan.—Justin Johnston, a McLouth High School student, was shot and killed while on a school trip to Costa Rica. The school confirmed his death Thursday afternoon. Early reports suggest Johnston may have been shot by a hotel security guard who mistook the teen for a burglar.
Johnston, 16, was on a nine-day trip with 12 students and two district sponsors. The students were traveling with the school’s Spanish Club. The trip was arranged through EF Educational Tours based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Johnston had just completed his sophomore year.
La Nacion, a Costa Rican newspaper, reports that Johnston and some other students were out late without a chaperone when they tried to sneak back into their hotel at 4 a.m. A barking security dog alerted the guard, who supposedly fired a warning shot. The report says when Johnston was running along a fence he was hit by a second shot that killed him.
No other students were injured.
Johnston was a track athlete, played baseball and was known as the school's best dancer.
"He was a great guy, didn't judge people, pretty laid back easy to get along with," classmate Kenny McClelland said.
A steady stream of people came to a memorial service on Thursday night.
"He was just really easy to talk to and everything, a person to go to if you had a problem," classmate Allison Lentz said.
District officials are working with EF Educational Tours to ensure their safety and to make travel arrangements for an early arrival home. EF Educational Tours is taking steps to make counselors available to the students and sponsors. District officials have been in close communication with families who have students on the trip.
The district’s crisis plan has been activated and counselors will be available on site for students and staff today and tomorrow.
The American Embassy released this statement on Thursday:
The American Embassy in San Jose expresses its deepest condolences to the family and friends of the American teenager who tragically died near La Fortuna, Costa Rica this morning.
Officials at U.S. Embassy San Jose are in contact with the family, and Embassy personnel have gone to La Fortuna to meet with local authorities and other Americans who are present at the scene.