2 dead, 7 injured; suspect killed
Two people were killed and seven others injured after a former student opened fire Monday at a St. Louis high school before he was shot by police, officials said.
The shooter, identified as Orlando Harris, 19, fatally shot a 61-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, St. Louis Police Department said Commissioner Mike Sack during a press briefing.
The shooter graduated from school last year and has no criminal history, Sack said. He had nearly a dozen high-capacity 30-round magazines on him, Sack said.
“It’s a heartbreaking day for all of us,” Sack said. “It’s going to be tough. While on paper we may have nine victims… we have hundreds more. Everyone who survived is going to bring home trauma.”
Eight people, including the shooter, were taken to hospital, Sack said. The woman died in the hospital and the girl died at school. The suspect also died in hospital, he added.
Officers were still notifying the families of the victims Monday evening, said Sack, who declined to identify the victims.
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The seven injured were stable and included male and female students aged 15 and 16, Sack said. Injuries ranged from a broken ankle to shrapnel and gunshot wounds, he said. One student was shot in the leg, another in the arm and one was shot in both hands and jaw.
Officers were trying to determine a motive, Sack said. “There are suspicions that he might have a mental illness that he suffered from,” Sack said.
Sack described a quick law enforcement response to the incident Monday morning. Officers received a call for an active shooter at 9:11 a.m. local time, he said. Officers arrived four minutes later and “immediately” entered the school, where students informed officers there was a shooter “with a long gun,” Sack said.
Officers ran at the sound of gunfire, exchanged gunfire with the shooter and shot him on the third floor, Sack said. According to the timeline provided by police, officers shot the shooter less than 15 minutes after the initial call.
“The officers did an amazing job,” Sack said. No officers were injured, he said.
“Hundreds” of students fled the building, Sack said. FOX2 live helicopter video from the scene showed dozens of students with backpacks running from campus. Others could be seen trying to climb over a fence.
Nylah Jones, a ninth grader at the school, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she was in math class when the shooter fired into her room from the hallway. A school maths teacher, David Williams, told the outlet that one of the windows in his classroom door was knocked out.
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Around 700 students at and near school The Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience was affected by the incident, St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said.
“We are working aggressively to try to find out what happened and to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Adams said.
Asked how the shooter entered the school, Sack provided few details. The school has metal detectors and the doors were locked, he said.
“Don’t be confused,” Sack said. “The school was closed and the doors were locked.”
The shooter had drawn a gun and entered the building “in an aggressive and violent manner,” Sack said. Seven security guards were in the school at the time, he said, but not all school security guards are armed.
“Security personnel did an outstanding job identifying the suspect’s efforts to enter and immediately notified other personnel,” he said.
When pressed again on the matter on Monday night, Sack declined to provide more information, citing security concerns.
“We’re not going to explain how he got in. You can understand that we want to try to make schools a hard target,” Sack said.
The shooter lives locally with his family and ATF officers were at the scene of his residence on Monday, Sack confirmed. Officers located the shooter’s vehicle near the school and removed evidence from it, Sack said.
Jay Greenberg, special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in St. Louis, said Monday evening that his office received an “increase” in reports of potential school shooters in the hours following the incident.
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Central Visual and Performing Arts High School is a magnet school with 400 students, according to the school’s website.
During an early morning press conference, Mayor Tishaura Jones recalled visiting the school on the first day of class. Students had been “excited” about the upcoming school year, she said.
“They had bright eyes, bushy tails. We laughed. We sang,” she said. “And now to be here for such a devastating and traumatic situation hurts me, especially as a mother.”
The trauma will “reverberate” in the community for “days and months to come”, she said. “Our kids shouldn’t have to go through this. They shouldn’t have to go through active shooting drills in case something happens,” she said.
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Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., attended the press conference and called on families to contact her office for assistance. “If you need help, it’s okay to be unwell,” she said. “It’s okay not to keep it to yourself. We can help you.”
State Representative Crystal Quade, Missouri House Minority Leader, took to Twitter to appeal to lawmakers to “do better to address the epidemic of gun violence that is killing Missourians”.
Asked about gun laws in Missouri, Sack said it was “very easy to get guns.”
“Missouri’s gun laws are very broad,” Sack said. “There’s really nothing we can do if someone walks down the main street with a gun. We have no reason to go talk to them.”
The incident is the 257th shooting incident on school grounds this calendar year, according to the school’s K-12 shooting database. This is the third active shooter situation, following the shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a prep school in Washington, DC, according to lead researcher David Riedman.
There have been at least 39 school shootings this year that have resulted in injuries or deaths, according to Education Week. That’s the highest in a year since the outlet began tracking such incidents in 2018.
“After Newtown, Parkland, Buffalo, Uvalde and countless other shootings in communities across the country, we need more action to stop the scourge of gun violence,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, press officer from the White House, during a CC press briefing on Monday.
This summer, following a mass shooting at a 4th of July parade in Illinois, the House narrowly passed a ban that would make it illegal for anyone to import, sell, manufacture, transfer or possess certain semi-automatic weapons.
“Every day the Senate fails to send an assault weapons ban to the President’s desk or waits to take other common sense action is a day too late for families and communities impacted by gun violence.” , said Jean-Pierre.