School gunman had AR-15-style weapon, 600 rounds of ammo

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ST. LOUIS (AP) – A 19-year-old who killed a teacher and a 15-year-old girl at a St. Louis high school was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and what appeared to be more than 600 rounds of ammunition, one said. police officer Tuesday.

Orlando Harris also left a handwritten note explaining Monday’s shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, St. Louis Police Commissioner Michael Sack told reporters. Tenth grader Alexzandria Bell and 61-year-old physical education teacher Jean Kuczka died and seven students were injured before police killed Harris in a gunfight.

Sack read Harris’ note in which the young man complained that he had no friends, no family, no girlfriend, and an isolated life. Harris called it the “perfect storm for a mass shooter.”

Sack said Harris had ammunition strapped to his chest and in a bag, and more magazines had been dumped in stairwells.

“This could have been a lot worse,” Sack said.

The attack forced students to barricade doors and crawl into the corners of the classroom, jump out of windows and run out of the building to seek safety. One girl said she was face to face with the shooter before his gun apparently jammed and she was able to run outside. Several people in the school said they heard Harris warn, “You’re all going to die!”

Harris graduated from the school last year. Speaking at a news conference, Sack urged people to come forward when someone who appears to be suffering from mental illness or anxiety begins to “talk about buying firearms or causing harm to others.”

Alexzandria was a smart, charismatic girl with a feisty personality who worked hard to improve her dance and her grades, said Central’s director Kacy Seals-Shahid. She was a member of the school’s junior varsity dance team, her father said.

“Alexzandria was my everything,” her father, Andre Bell, told KSDK-TV. “She was cheerful, wonderful and just a wonderful person.”

“She was the girl I loved seeing and hearing from. No matter how I felt, I could always talk to her and that was good. That was my baby,” he said.

On the morning of the shooting, Alexzandria’s mother was bringing her daughter’s glasses to school when she noticed the teen had left them at home. Her mother was at school before Alexzandria arrived on the school bus.

“When Alex got off her bus, I asked her, ‘Don’t you need this one because you can’t see without it?’ Seals-Shahid said. ‘The family was super supportive of Alexzandria.’

Abby Kuczka said her mother was killed when the gunman burst into her classroom and she moved between him and her students.

“My mother loved children,” Abbey Kuczka told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “She loved her students. I know her students looked at her as if she were their mother.”

The seven injured students are all 15 or 16 years old. Sack said four suffered gunshot or abrasions, two had bruises and one had a broken ankle — apparently from jumping out of the three-story building. All were reported to be in stable condition.

The school in south St. Louis was locked up, with seven guards at the doors, said Chief Inspector Kelvin Adams of St. Louis Schools. A guard was initially startled to see Harris trying to enter one of the doors. He had a gun and “it wasn’t mysterious what was going to happen. He had it out and came in in an aggressive, violent way,” Sack said.

That guard alerted school officials and arranged for the police to be contacted.

Harris managed to get in anyway. Sack declined to say how, saying he didn’t want to “make it easy” for anyone else trying to break into a school.

Police offered this timeline: A 911 call came in at 9:11 a.m. to alert police to an active gunman. Officers – some dressed off-duty in plain clothes – arrived at 9:15 am

Police found Harris at 9:23 a.m. on the third floor, where he had barricaded himself in a classroom. Police said in a press release that when Harris fired at officers, they fired back and broke through the door.

At 9:25 a.m., when Harris pointed his gun at the police, they fired several shots. He was detained by the police at 9:32 a.m.

Police said Alexzandria was found in a hallway and died at the scene. Kuczka was found in a classroom and died in a hospital.

Central Visual and Performing Arts shares a building with another magnet school, Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience. Central has 383 students, Collegiate 336.

It was the 40th school shooting this year resulting in injuries or death, according to an Education Week tally — the most in any year since it began tracking shootings in 2018. The fatal attacks include the murders of 19 children. and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May.

Matt Davis, chairman of the St. Louis Board of Education, said police and school officials responded quickly to Monday’s shooting.

“And yet we still have a tragedy,” Davis said.

For now, the survivors are processing the trauma.

The gunman aimed his gun at Raymond Parks, a dance teacher at the school, but did not shoot him, Parks said. The kids in his class escaped outside and Parks stopped traffic and had someone call the police. They came quickly.

“You couldn’t have wished for better,” Parks said of the police response.

Ashley Rench said she was teaching advanced algebra to sophomores when she heard a loud bang. Then the school intercom announced, “Miles Davis is in the building.”

“That’s our code for intruders,” Rench said.

The gunman tried to open the classroom door but did not break in, she said. When police officers started banging, she wasn’t sure at first if it was really the police, until she was able to look outside and see officers.

“Let’s go!” she told the children.

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Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri. Associated Press writers Margaret Stafford and Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show that Alexzandria Bell was 15, not 16 as the police had previously stated. Police also corrected the spelling of her first name.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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