Survivors Recount Terror Of St. Louis School Shooting

Survivors Recount Terror Of St. Louis School Shooting

At least 2 dead and 8 injured after a school shooting in Saint Louis 2:48

(WABNEWS) — As a 19-year-old gunman walked the halls with an AR-15-style rifle and more than 600 rounds of ammunition, frightened students and teachers at a St. Louis high school locked classroom doors and they huddled in the corners.

Some recall hearing gunshots from outside and someone trying to open their doors. Some said they jumped out of windows.

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The shooting at Central High School for Visual and Performing Arts left two people dead: student Alexandria Bell, 15, and teacher Jean Kuczka, 61. Several students were also injured in the shooting.

The shooter was identified as Orlando Harris, who graduated from the school last year and returned Monday with an extensive arsenal and a handwritten note, according to St. Louis police. He died at a hospital after a shootout with police officers.

Student Alex Macias said it was just another morning until the assistant principal called over the intercom with a signal they only hear during active attacker drills. Then they heard gunshots, the student told WABNEWS affiliate KSDK.

Kuczka, her health teacher, closed the door to the classroom, but the attacker was able to “shoot his way in,” Macías said.

“He shot Mrs. Kuczka and I closed my eyes,” he said. “I really didn’t want to see anything else. But then when I thought he was leaving, I opened my eyes to see him standing there making eye contact with me. And then after making eye contact, he just walked away.”

Students began jumping out of the window at that point, he said.

Teacher Kristie Faulstich said Kuczka was killed standing between the attacker and the students. She described her former colleague as a popular teacher who was well liked.

Faulstich was at school that day and recalled hearing the phrase “Miles Davis is in the building” over the intercom, a code to alert teachers to an active attacker.

A minute after he closed the door to his second-floor classroom, Faulstich said someone started “violently pushing on the handle, trying to get in.”

Sophomore Brian Collins, 15, was in Kuczka’s class when the gunman entered the classroom and fired multiple shots, his mother, VonDina Washington, said.

Collins suffered gunshot wounds to his hands and jaw and escaped by jumping from a classroom window onto a ledge, the mother said.

“He’s very good at drawing,” Washington said. “He went to CVPA for visual arts, and we hope he can draw again.”

High school dean of arts Manfret McGhee told KSDK he ran for his life after a bullet missed him in the hallway and he hid in a bathroom. He did not know at the time that he had shot his 16-year-old son.

Then he ran to his son’s health class.

“When I first saw him, I saw a huge hole in his pant leg and all I could think was, ‘My God, what did they shoot him with?’” he said, describing how he used his belt to stop the bleeding. .

This image provided by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department shows an AR-15-style rifle they say was used by the 19-year-old gunman.

The attacker left a note that read: ‘I have no friends. I have no family’

After the shooting, FBI investigators found a handwritten note in the car Harris drove to school.

St. Louis Police Commissioner Michael Sack detailed some of the passages: “I have no friends. I have no family. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I have never had a social life. I have been an isolated loner all my life,” the note read, according to Sack. “This was the perfect storm for a mass attacker.”

The commissioner said the attacker had his firearm drawn when he arrived at the school and was wearing a bib with seven clips of ammunition. He also carried more ammunition in a bag and dropped extra clips on the stairs and in the hallways along the way.

“It doesn’t take long to finish a charger while looking down a long hallway or up or down a staircase or walking into a classroom,” Sack said. “This could have been a horrible scene. It wasn’t by the grace of God and that the cops were as close as they were, and they responded the way they did.”

The police commissioner has credited rapid police response, locked doors and prior training to prevent further deaths.

A call about an active shooter at the high school came in around 9:11 am, with officers entering four minutes later, according to Sack. Some off-duty police officers who were nearby at a fellow officer’s funeral also responded to the scene.

By 9:23 a.m., officers had found the attacker and “engaged him in a shooting.” Two minutes later, officers reported that the suspect had fallen.

Seven security personnel were also at the school when the shooter arrived, but the shooter did not enter a checkpoint where security guards were stationed, said DeAndre Davis, director of security for St. Louis Public Schools.

Davis said security guards stationed at district schools are not armed, but mobile officers responding to calls at schools are.

People gather after a high school shooting in St. Louis, the United States, on Oct. 24, 2022.

‘The building is riddled with bullets’

Authorities said the doors were locked and it was unclear how the attacker got in.

The St. Louis police commissioner declined to provide those details, saying, “I don’t want this to be easy on anyone else.”

Asked if it would have been different if the first person who confronted the shooter had a gun, Board of Education President Matt Davis said, “The shooter had a high-powered rifle. So much so that he could force his way into a secure building. The building is riddled with bullets.”

“I don’t know how much firepower it would take to stop that person. You saw the police response, it was massive. It was overwhelming,” he added… I know what would have been different is if this high-powered rifle was not available to this individual. That would have made the difference.”

Across the country, there have been at least 67 shootings on school grounds so far this year.

Davis said such shootings should not be normalized.

“The fact that it takes this level of response to stop a shooting like this because people have access to these weapons of war and can bring them into our schools can never be normal,” Davis said.

“This is our worst nightmare. … And it can’t happen again.”

The Saint Louis Public Schools district plans to add gun safety to its curriculum, Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams said.

“Not just reading, writing, and arithmetic, but reading, writing, arithmetic, and gun safety. That’s a weird kind of curriculum alignment, if you will,” he said.

Helping students understand how dangerous firearms are will help protect them at school, in their neighborhoods, “frankly, everywhere now,” Adams added.

WABNEWS’s Caroll Alvarado, Elizabeth Joseph, Holly Yan and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

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