st. LOUIS (AP) — An armed former student broke into a St. Louis high school Monday morning and warned, “You’re all going to die!” He fatally shot a teacher and a teenage girl and wounded seven others before police killed him in a shootout.
After 9 a.m. attack at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, students barricaded doors, huddled in corners of classrooms, jumped out windows, and ran out of the building to seek safety. I was. One terrified girl said she made eye contact with the shooter before her gun apparently got stuck.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, Police Chief Michael Sack identified the shooter as 19-year-old Orlando Harris, who graduated from school last year.
Sack said the motive is still under investigation, but “there is suspicion that he may have the mental illness he is experiencing.” Investigators later searched Harris’ home, Sack said. said.
Authorities did not release the victim’s name, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified the dead teacher as Jean Kuchka. Her daughter said her mother was killed when gunmen burst into the classroom and her mother moved between him and her students.
“My mother loved children,” Abby Kuchka told the newspaper. “She loved her students. I know her students looked at her like she was her mother.”
Another fatality was a 16-year-old woman who died at school, Sack said.
Seven other 15- and 16-year-old students (4 boys and 3 girls) are in stable condition. Four students had gunshot wounds or abrasions, two had bruises, and one had a broken ankle.
Sack declined to disclose how Harris was able to enter the building.
“If there’s someone with a will, they’re trying to understand. We don’t want to make it easy for them,” Sack said. I had to do my best to extend the time and buy time to respond.”
Harris had a gun out when he arrived at the school and said, “There was no mystery as to what was going to happen. He had it and went in in an aggressive and violent way.”
Sack said Harris had more than a dozen high-capacity ammunition. “It’s a lot of casualties. …It’s certainly a tragedy for the family and a tragedy for our community, but it could have been worse.
St. Louis school superintendent Kelvin Adams said the school had seven security guards at the time of the attack, each stationed at the entrance to the locked building. failed to enter through a locked door. Security guards notified school officials, who contacted the police.
Sack said the shooter was called at 9:11 a.m. and police arrived and had Harris down by 9:25 a.m.
The Central Visual and Performing Arts shares a building with another magnet school, the Collegiate School of Medicine and Biosciences. There are 383 students in Central and 336 in College Eight.
Monday’s school shooting was the 40th of the year, according to Education Week’s tally, the most every year since it began tracking shootings in 2018. In May, 19 children and her two teachers died. Monday’s shooting in St. Louis, the school shooting that killed four of his students in December 2021, and her teens in Michigan have been linked to acts of terrorism and first-degree murder. It happened on the same day that I admitted my guilt.
Tanya Golston said she was saved when the gun jammed as the shooter entered the classroom. “I tried to run, but I couldn’t. Me and him made eye contact, but I could tell because his gun was jammed.”
Two teachers recounted close encounters with shooters.
Ashley Rench told the Associated Press that he heard a loud noise while teaching advanced algebra to second graders. The school intercom then announced, “Miles Davis is in the building.”
“That’s our code against intruders,” Wrench said.
When the shooter tried to enter the locked classroom, the students took refuge under her desk and behind the podium, but gave up and left.
“I don’t know why he chose not to break my windows or shoot through my locks,” she said.
When Raymond Parkes was about to teach a dance class for juniors, he was approached by a man dressed in black. Then he realized it was a gun.
“The kids started screaming and running and scrambling. He went straight in two doors and pointed his gun at me because I was in front,” Parkes said.
According to Parks, for reasons unknown, the shooter moved the gun away from him, forcing Parks and a dozen or so students out of the room. “That’s what I don’t understand. He let me go,” Parks said.
Janey Douglas’ 15-year-old daughter was stuck in a hallway when school closed. Douglas said she received a call from her daughter telling her she heard gunshots.
“One of her friends burst through the door and he was shot in the hand. Then she and her friend ran. The phone hung up,” Douglas said. “I was on my way.”
The slain teacher, Kuchka, taught health at Central for 14 years and recently started coaching cross-country at College Eight, her daughter said. “She was definitely looking forward to her retirement. She was close,” said Abby Kuchka.
According to Kuchka’s biography on the school’s website, she was a married mother of five children and grandmother of seven. She was an avid bicycle rider and was part of her hockey team at the current Missouri State University where she fielded the 1979 National Championship.
“I can’t imagine myself having a career other than teaching,” Kuchka wrote on her website. “When I was in high school, I taught swimming at the YMCA. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a teacher.”
The shooting shook St. Louis Mayor Tishaula Jones.
“Our kids don’t have to go through this,” Jones said. I did.”
White House Press Secretary Carine Jean-Pierre said additional action was needed to stop gun violence.
“Every day that the Senate does not send an assault weapons ban to the president’s desk, or waits for another common sense action, is too late for families and communities affected by gun violence.” Jean-Pierre said.
The school district has locked down all 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.