The 19-year-old gunman who killed two people and injured several others at his former high school left a note saying his fight led to “the perfect storm for a mass shooter,” the St. Louis police said.
Orlando Harris graduated from Central Visual and Performing Arts High School last year and returned Monday with an AR-15-style rifle, more than 600 ammunition and more than a dozen high-capacity magazines, said St. Louis Police Commissioner Michael Sack. .
Harris died in a hospital after a shootout with officers.
Investigators found a handwritten note in the car Harris drove to the school. Sack detailed some passages:
“I have no friends. I have no family. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’ve never had a social life. I’ve been a lonely loner all my life,” Sack said on the note. “This was the perfect storm for a mass shooter.”
Given the gunman’s extensive arsenal, the tragedy could have been “much worse,” the police chief said.
Authorities praised closed doors and a quick response from law enforcement — including off-duty officers — for preventing more deaths at the school.
But the gunman did not enter a checkpoint where guards were stationed, said DeAndre Davis, director of safety and security at St. Louis Public Schools.
Davis also said the guards stationed in the schools in the district are not armed, but mobile agents who respond to calls at schools are.
“For some people, that would cause a stir,” Davis said Tuesday. “For us, we thought it was best for our officers, for the normality of school for children, not to have officers armed in the school.”
Student Alexandria Bell, 15, and teacher Jean Kuczka, 61, were shot during the attack.
One of the teacher’s colleagues, Kristie Faulstich, said Kuczka died protecting her students.
During the rush to evacuate the students from the school, a student looked at me and said, ‘They shot Mrs. Kuczka.’ And then she said Mrs. Kuczka had placed herself between the shooter and the students,” Faulstich said.
Kuczka was looking forward to retiring in a few years, her daughter Abigail Kuczka told CNN.
Alexandria was looking forward to her Sweet 16, her father Andre Bell told CNN affiliate KSDK.
“It’s a nightmare,” Bell said. “I’m so upset. I need someone – police, community members, someone – to make sense of this.”
He joins a growing list of parents struggling with the reality of their child being murdered at school.
Across the country, at least 67 school shootings have taken place so far this year.
While the shooting took place in St. Louis, a Michigan state attorney who just learned the admission of guilt from a teen who killed four students last fall said she was no longer shocked to learn of another school shooting. .
“The fact that there is another school shooting doesn’t surprise me, which is appalling,” Oakland County District Attorney Karen McDonald said.
“We need to keep the public and educate the public… on how to prevent gun violence. It is preventable and we should never allow this to be something we have to live with.”
Bell, the father of the murdered teen, said he is struggling to get answers about what happened.
“I really want to know: how did that man get into the school?” he told KSDK.
The doors were locked, authorities said. But the St. Louis Police Commissioner declined to detail how the gunman entered.
“I don’t want to make it easy for anyone else,” Sack said.
The shooter didn’t hide his gun when he entered the school, Sack said.
“When he came in, it was outside … there was no mystery about what would happen,” the commissioner said. “He had it out and came in in an aggressive, violent way.”
Faulstich said the school principal came through the intercom and used the code phrase “Miles Davis is in the building” to let the faculty know there was a gunman in the building.
“I immediately went calmly to lock my door and turn off the lights,” the teacher said. “I then turned to my kids and told everyone to get in the corner.”
Within a minute of locking the door to her second-floor classroom, Faulstich said, someone began “forcibly pushing the latch to get in.”
“I absolutely commend my students for their response,” Faulstich said. “Even when they heard gunshots everywhere, they kept quiet and I know they did it to protect each other.”
Adrianne Bolden, a freshman at the school, told KSDK that students thought the school was running a drill — until they heard the sirens and noticed their teachers were scared.
“The teacher crawled over to her and she asked for help moving the lockers to the door so they can’t get in,” Bolden said. “And we started hearing glass breaking from outside and gunshots outside the door.”
Sophomore Brian Collins, 15, suffered gunshot wounds to his hands and jaw. He escaped by jumping out of a classroom window onto a ledge, his mother VonDina Washington said.
“He told me they heard a report of an active gunman over the intercom, so everyone in the class hid,” Washington said. According to her son, the gunman then entered the classroom and fired several shots before leaving.
After the gunman left the third-floor classroom, Washington said another student opened a classroom window and some jumped.
Brian has numbness in his hands and difficulty moving some of his right hand fingers.
“He’s very good at drawing,” Washington said. “He went to CVPA for fine arts and we hope he can draw again.”
Math teacher David Williams told CNN everyone went into “drill mode,” turning off lights, locking doors, and crawling into corners so they couldn’t be seen.
He said he heard someone trying to open the door and a man yelling, “You’re all going to die.”
A short time later, a bullet came through one of the windows in his classroom, Williams said.
His classroom is on the third floor, where Sack said the police called in the shooter.
Finally, an officer said she was outside, and the class ran out through nearby emergency doors.
Security personnel were at the school when the gunman arrived, said George Sells, communications director for St. Louis Public Schools.
“We had the seven members of staff in the building who did a great job setting the alarm off quickly,” Sells said.
The commissioner did say that closing the school doors likely delayed the shooter.
“The school was closed and the doors were locked,” Sack told CNN affiliate KMOV. “Security personnel did an excellent job identifying the suspect’s attempts to get in and immediately notified other personnel and made sure we were contacted.”
After widespread controversy over the delayed response when confronting school shooters in Uvalde, Texas and Parkland, Florida, Sack said officers in St. Louis wereted no time rushing into the school and stopping the shooter.
“There was no sidewalk conference. There was no discussion,” Sack said. “There was no, ‘Hey, where are you going?’ They just went in.”
A call about an active high school gunman came in around 9:11 a.m., according to a timeline provided by the commissioner.
Police arrived on the scene and entered four minutes later.
Officers found the gunman and began “a gunfight with him” at 9:23 a.m. Two minutes later, officers reported that the suspect was down.
Asked about the eight minutes between the officers’ arrival and contact with the gunman, Sack said, “Eight minutes isn’t very long,” and that the officers had to maneuver through a large school with few entrances and crowds of students and staff waiting at the door. were evacuating. .
Police found the suspect “not just hearing the gunfire, but talking to kids and teachers as they leave,” Sack said.
When calls came in from people in hiding in various locations, officers fanned out and searched for students and staff to escort them out of the building.
Officers who were at a church down the street for a colleague’s funeral also responded to the shooting, the commissioner said.
A SWAT team gathered for a training drill was also able to quickly load up and head to the school to perform a second sweep of the building, Sack said.
Some officers were “off duty; some were wearing T-shirts, but they had their (ballistic) vests on,” the commissioner said. “They did an excellent job.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated the wrong age for 15-year-old Alexandria Bell, who was killed in the shooting.