ST. LOUIS – An armed former student stormed a St. Louis high school Monday yelling, “You are all going to die!” before shooting a teacher and a teenage girl to death and injuring six others. He later died in a shootout with police.
The attack carried out shortly after 9 a.m. at the Central High School for Visual and Performing Arts forced students to barricade doors, crowd into the corners of classrooms, jump out of windows and run from the building in search of from a safe place.
A terrified girl said that she came face to face with the armed man, but was able to escape because her gun apparently jammed.RELATED
At a news conference, Police Chief Michael Sack said quick actions by a security guard and police officers helped end the shooting before more people were killed or injured.
Police announced Monday night that the shooter was Orlando Harris, 19, who graduated from the school last year. Police said they do not know of a possible motive. Previously, he had indicated that it was not clear if the young man wanted to attack someone in particular.
Sack said Harris had no criminal record.
Authorities did not release the names of the victims, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified the dead teacher as Jean Kuczka. Her daughter said her mother was killed when the gunman burst into her classroom and she placed herself between her students and him.
“My mom loved children,” Abbey Kuczka told the newspaper. “She loved her students. I know that her students saw her as if she were their mother”.
St. Louis Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said there were seven security guards at the school at the time of the attack, each stationed at a building entrance whose doors were locked. One of the guards noticed that the armed man was trying to enter through a closed door, but was unable to. The guard then notified school officials, who in turn contacted police, Sack said.
“It was that timely response from that security guard, the fact that the door forced the suspect to pause, that bought us some time,” Sack said.
He declined to say how the young man ultimately managed to get in, armed with what he said was a long gun. Central High School shares a building with another specialized public school, the University School of Medicine and Bioscience. The Central has 383 students and the University has 336.
The officers led the students out of the three-story building, then “ran to where the gunshots were being heard, located the assailant and engaged him in a shootout,” killing him, Sack said.
It is the 40th school shooting in the United States this year in which there are injuries or deaths, according to a tally kept by Education Week, an independent news organization specializing in education coverage, the most in any year since it began keeping track of the shootings in 2018. These deadly attacks include the massacre at Rob Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.
Some of the six people hospitalized Monday had gunshot wounds, while others were hit by shrapnel, Sack said. He did not provide details about his health status.
Impressive stories of survivors
One student, 16-year-old Taniya Gholston, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she was in a classroom when the assailant entered.
“All I heard was two shots and he came in with a gun,” Gholston said. “I was trying to run, but I couldn’t. We made eye contact, but I managed to get out because his gun jammed. But we saw blood on the floor.”
Another student, Nylah Jones, a ninth grader, told the Post-Dispatch that she was in math class when the assailant fired into the classroom from the hallway. The shooter was unable to get into the classroom and banged on the door as students crowded into a corner, she said.
Janay Douglas’s 15-year-old daughter was trapped in a hallway when the school was locked down. Douglas said she received a call from her daughter, letting her know that she had heard gunshots.
“One of her friends came out of a door, was shot in the hand, and then she and her friends ran. The phone was disconnected,” Douglas said. “It was already on its way.”
The incident left St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones in shock.
“Our kids shouldn’t be living through this,” Jones said at a news conference. “They shouldn’t have to do active shooter drills in case something happens. And unfortunately that happened today.