St. Louis is on edge after a gunman walked into Central Visual and Performing Arts High School Monday morning and pulled the trigger – killing a 16-year-old girl and a 61-year-old teacher. Seven students were also injured and are in stable condition.
Law enforcement officers killed the suspect, 19-year-old Orlando Harris, who graduated from the school last year.
St. Louis Police Commissioner Michael Sack said officers arrived on the scene within a couple of minutes of receiving a call for service.
“As kids were fleeing out of the building, they (officers) talked to some of the kids who told them that there was a shooter armed with a long gun. The officers began to clear the building looking for the shooter. Upon hearing gunfire, they ran to that gunfire, located the shooter, and engaged that shooter in exchange of gunfire. The suspect was struck and transported from this location. That suspect has since been pronounced deceased.”
He said no officers were injured.
“The officers arrived quickly, made entry with no hesitation. They went directly to the sound of gunfire, which is the expectation not only the department but of the community as well, to protect our kids and our teachers in the schools that should be considered safe. This is a heartbreaking day for all of us. It’s going to be tough,” he said. “While on paper we might have nine victims – eight who were transported and one remains – we have hundreds of others. Everyone who survived here is going to take on trauma, even the officers who responded here and the firefighters and the paramedics who worked on people here are going to experience some degree of trauma. It’s terrible to think about here is a safe place where kids go to learn, to grow, to develop and something like this happens. It’s just heartbreaking.”
Sack said the gunman, who was black, had no criminal record. Police said the doors to the school were locked, but they did not explain how the suspect gained access to the building. Sack said the shooter did not conceal the gun while entering the building.
“When he entered, it was out. There was no mystery about what was going to happen and he entered in an aggressive, violent manner. This could have been much worse. The individual had almost a dozen 30 round, high capacity magazines on him. So that’s a whole lot of victims there,” said Sack.
FBI special agent Jay Greenberg reminds the public that any hoax or joke about school shootings will be taken seriously.
“We have received an uptick in additional allegations of potential school shooters around here,” said Greenberg. “So we think what’s happening is that likely there are some of our kids who have seen this. They’re thinking about it right now. And so they have started talking about this or sharing this, whether they think it’s a joke or it’s serious. We would just ask everybody, please help the area deal with this appropriately.”
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones reacted to the news.
“To be here for such a devastating and traumatic situation breaks my heart, especially as a mother. I’m heartbroken for these families who send their children to our schools hoping that they will be safe,” she said. “Our children shouldn’t have to experience this- they shouldn’t have to go through active shooter drills in case something happened and unfortunately that happened today. Everyone involved is going to have to deal with the trauma that will reverberate across our communities in the days and the months to come. This is just so unfair. It’s so unfair.”
The mayor thanked first responders and school workers for running towards danger to save others.
St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said today is a tragedy.
“Seven-hundred students are impacted by what occurred here,” he said. “The police department was on the spot, our security team as well, as we’re working aggressively to try to find out what occurred and to make sure that this does not happen again.”
The St. Louis community gathered at a vigil Monday night to remember the victims.
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