ST. LOUIS (AP) — An armed former student walked into a St. Louis high school early Monday morning and shouted, “You’re all going to die!” Police killed him in a shootout before shooting dead a teacher and a teenage girl and injuring seven others.
The attack, which happened just after 9 a.m. at Central High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, forced students to barricade doors and huddle in corners of classrooms, jump out windows and flee the building in search of safety. According to the terrified girl, she was able to get away from the gunman when his gun jammed.
Speaking at a press conference Monday afternoon, Police Chief Michael Sack identified the shooter as 19-year-old Orlando Harris, who graduated from the high school last year.
Sack said the cause is still under investigation, but “there are suspicions that he may have some sort of mental illness.” Investigators later searched Harris’ home, Sack said.
Authorities did not release the names of the victims, but St. Louis Post-Dispatch He identified the dead teacher as Zhan Kuchka. Her daughter said her mother died when a gunman entered her classroom and stood between her and her students.
“My mom loved kids,” Abby Kuchka told the newspaper. “He loved his students. I know her students look up to her like a mother.”
The other victim, a 16-year-old girl, died at school, Sack said.
Seven other students aged 15 and 16, four boys and three girls, are in good condition. Four students were injured by bullets or fire, two had bruises and one had a broken leg.
Sack declined to say how Harris gained access to the building, which has security guards, locked doors and metal detectors.
“If somebody has the will, they understand, we don’t want to make it easy for them,” Sack said. “We need to do everything we can to extend the time we can get into the building to buy us time to respond.”
When Harris arrived at school, he pulled out his gun and said, “There was no secret about what was going to happen. He pulled it out and entered aggressively and violently.”
Harris had about a dozen rounds of high-capacity ammunition, Sack said. “These are many sacrifices. … It’s certainly tragic for the families and tragic for our community, but it could have been worse.”
St. Louis Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said there were seven security guards at the school at the time of the attack, each stationed at the entrance to the locked building. One of the guards noticed the gunman trying to enter through the locked door. The security guard informed the school authorities, who contacted the police.
A call about a shooter came in at 9:11 a.m., and officers arrived and took Harris down just before 9:25 a.m., Sack said. He and others praised the quick response of officers and other emergency responders.
Central Visual and Performing Arts shares a building with another magnet school, the Collegiate School of Medicine and Biology. There are 383 students in the Central, 336 students in the Collegium.
Monday’s school shooting marked the 40th time this year that there have been injuries or deaths, the most since tracking shootings began in 2018. The deadly attacks include the killings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 19 children and two teachers died in May. Monday’s shooting in St. Louis came on the same day a Michigan teenager pleaded guilty. terrorism and first-degree murder in a school shooting that killed four students In December 2021.
Tanya Gholston said she survived when the shooter’s gun jammed when she entered her classroom. “All I heard was two shots and he came in there with a gun,” the 16-year-old told the Post-Dispatch. “I tried to run, but I couldn’t run.” He and I exchanged glances, but his pistol jammed, so I got it.’
Two teachers said they did not confront the shooter.
Ashley Rench told The Associated Press that she was teaching algebra to sophomores when she heard a loud noise. Then the school intercom announced, “Miles Davis is in the building.”
“That’s our code for attackers,” Wrench said.
As students took cover under his desk and behind his podium, the shooter tried to enter the locked classroom before surrendering.
“I don’t know why he didn’t break my windows or shoot the lock,” she said.
Raymond Parks was about to teach the juniors a dance lesson when a man dressed in black approached. At first, Parks thought the man was carrying a broom or a stick. Then he realized it was a gun.
“The children started screaming and running and running. He went straight through the double doors and pointed his gun at me because I was in the front,” Parks said.
For reasons unknown, Pax said, the shooter turned his gun away, allowing Pax and dozens of other students to leave the room. “I don’t understand it. “He let me go,” Parks said.
Janay Douglas’ 15-year-old daughter was stuck in the hallway when the school closed. Douglas said he received a call from his daughter saying she heard shots fired.
“One of his friends broke down the door and got shot in the arm, and then he and his friends just ran. “The phone is dead,” Douglas said. “I was on the way.”
The deceased teacher taught health at Kuchka Central for 14 years and recently began coaching cross country at Collegiate, his daughter said. “He was definitely looking forward to retirement. He was close,” Abby Kuchka said.
According to Kuchka’s biography on the school’s website, she was a married mother of five and a grandmother of seven. He was an avid cyclist and was on the 1979 national championship hockey team at Missouri State University.
“I can’t imagine myself in any profession other than teaching,” Kuchka wrote on her website. “In high school I taught swimming at the YMCA. From then on, I realized that I wanted to be a teacher.”
The shooting shocked St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones.
“Our kids shouldn’t have to go through this,” Jones said. “They should not be in active shooter training if something happens. “Unfortunately, this happened today.”
White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said more must be done to end gun violence.
“The day the Senate fails to send an assault weapons ban to the president’s desk or wait for another smart move is too late for families and communities affected by gun violence,” Jean-Pierre said.
The school district closed all its schools for the rest of the day and canceled all after-school activities, including sports.
AP News Editor Julie Wright contributed from Kansas City, Missouri. Reporter Margaret Stafford contributed from Liberty, Missouri. Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri.