2 Killed, 7 Injured in St. Louis High School Shooting
The gunman has been identified as a former student who graduated last year from Central Visual and Performing Arts High School.
LAST UPDATED 10/26/22
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Two people were killed and seven students were injured in a shooting Monday morning at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School (CVPA) in St. Louis.
The shooting was reported just after 9 a.m. St. Louis police officers arrived within minutes of the initial call and immediately made entry into the building. Students running out of the building told officers there was a shooter armed with a long gun, reports KSDK.
The suspect, identified as 19-year-old Orlando Harris, exchanged gunfire with police. He was shot and taken to an area hospital where he died. Harris graduated from CVPA last year.
The deceased victims have been identified as 61-year-old Jean Kuczka, a health teacher, and 15-year-old student Alexandria Bell, according to St. Louis Today. Four other students were shot, including two in the leg, one in the arm, and one in the hands and jaw. Two additional students suffered abrasions and another fractured her ankle. They are all in stable condition.
“This is a heartbreaking day for all of us. It’s going to be tough,” Interim St. Louis Police Chief Michael Sack said during a news conference Monday. “While on paper we might have nine victims, eight who were transported, one remained, we have hundreds of others. Everyone who survived here is going to take home trauma.”
Students Recall Shooting
Student Keyshawn Brooks was in Kuczka’s class when a lockdown was announced.
“We heard shots from behind the building like they busted the windows out first from behind the building. Then they shot our classroom door down. A man opened the door and was like, ‘Y’all are going to die today,'” Brooks recalled. “He shot the teacher first. She fell to the floor. Another boy got shot in the hand and he was bleeding. Two other girls got shot. When he left the room, we opened the window and we jumped out.”
Freshman Nylah Jones told St. Louis Today that she was in math class when the shooter fired into her room from the hallway but was unable to gain entry. Students hid in the corner of the room as the shooter banged on the door.
Taniya Gholston, 16, said the suspect’s gun jammed at one point, giving students time to escape.
CVPA shares a building with the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience (CSMB), which was also placed on lockdown. A reunification site was set up at nearby Gateway STEM High School for both CVPA and CSMB families.
Other schools in the area increased security in response to the shooting. SLPS placed all its schools on hard lockdown, limiting movement in and out of the schools until dismissal. Confluence Academies, which operates five charter schools throughout the city, prohibited visitors in all of its buildings.
Chief Praises Police, Teacher Response
During a Monday evening news conference, Sack said he was “extremely proud” of the police response, indicating officers entered the building without hesitation and ran toward gunfire to protect the students.
Sack said the doors to the school were locked and seven security employees were on-site during the shooting. He would not discuss how the suspect was able to gain entry, stating, “I don’t want to make this easy for anybody else.”
One of the officers saw the man trying to enter the building and called the police at 9:11 a.m. Police arrived on the scene and made entry just four minutes later at 9:15 a.m. Officers located the gunman on the third floor and exchanged gunfire at 9:23 a.m. Two minutes later, officers reported the suspect was down. No officers were injured.
Officers who were at a church down the street for another officer’s funeral also responded to the shooting, in addition to officers from a nearby police station, CNN reports. By 9:30 a.m., the area around the school was blocked off by police, ambulances, and a SWAT van.
DeAndre Davis, director of safety and security for SLPS, said officers did exactly what they were taught during an active shooter training they participated in a few months ago.
“Because of the training, they all knew what needed to be done. They created their teams, and they went in, and they took action,” emphasized Sack.
Sack also praised the students, teachers, and staff for how they handled the shooting, according to NPR. There were around 700 students in the building at the time of the shooting.
“That collaboration worked, the drills worked, the kids worked. They did exactly what they were supposed to do,” he said. “They barricaded those doors, they got away from those windows, and when it was time to evacuate, they did the best they could. They got out of that building.”
Shooter Had Over 600 Rounds of Ammo, Left Note
The former student, who has no criminal history, was armed with an AR-15-style weapon when police confronted him. Authorities said he had “a large quantity” of ammunition totaling over 600 rounds. Seven magazines were strapped to his chest and eight were in a bag he was carrying, ABC reports. Others were found dumped in the stairwells.
Police are working to determine a motive for the shooting. A handwritten note found in the suspect’s car spoke about carrying out a shooting.
“I don’t have any friends. I don’t have any family. I’ve never had a social life. I’ve been an isolated loner my entire life,” read the note. “This was the perfect storm for a mass shooting.”
The shooter legally purchased the gun used in the shooting. However, Sack condemned Missouri gun laws.
“It’s very easy to get guns,” he said. “I’ve said it before — the gun laws in Missouri [are] very broad … they can carry them openly down any street, and there’s really nothing we can do.”
Sack also encouraged people to notify police if they are “aware of an individual who appears to be suffering from some kind of mental illness or distress,” and is talking about buying guns or causing harm.
At Monday’s news conference, U.S. Representative Cori Bush urged anyone impacted by the shooting who may need support, especially related to their mental health, to call her office at 314-955-9980.
“It is OK not to be OK,” she said. “It is OK to not hold it in yourself.”
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