The 19-year-old gunman who killed two people and injured several more at his old high school he left a note saying his struggles led to “the perfect storm for a mass shooter,” 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 rounds of ammunition and more than a dozen high-capacity magazines, the police commissioner said. St.Louis, Michael Sack.
Harris died at a hospital after a shootout with officers.
Investigators found a handwritten note in the car Harris drove to school. Sack detailed some of the passages:
“I do not have friends. I have no family. I have never had a girlfriend. I have never had a social life. I have been an isolated loner all my life,” the note read, according to Sack. “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 credited locked doors and a swift police response, including by off-duty officers, with preventing more deaths at the school.
But the shooter did not enter a checkpoint where security guards were stationed, said DeAndre Davis, director of safety and security for St. Louis Public Schools.
Davis also said security guards stationed at district schools are not armed, but mobile officers responding to calls at schools are.
“For some people, that would cause some kind of stir,” Davis said Tuesday. “For us, we think it is better for our officers, for the normality of the school for the children, not to have armed officers in the school.”
Student Alexandria Bell, 15, and teacher Jean Kuczka, 61, were shot in the attack.
One of the teacher’s colleagues, Kristie Faulstich, said Kuczka died protecting her students.
During the rush to evacuate students from the school, “One student looked at me and said, ‘Mrs. Kuczka was shot.’ And then he said that Ms. Kuczka had put herself between the gunman and the students,” Faulstich said.
Kuczka expected to retire in a few years, his daughter Abigail Kuczka told CNN.
Alexandria was looking forward to her Sweet 16, said her father, Andre Bell. KSDK, CNN affiliate.
“It’s a nightmare,” Bell said. “I’m so upset. I need someone, police, people in the community, someone, to make sense of this.”
He joins a growing list of parents dealing with the reality of their son being murdered at school.
Across the country, there have been at least 67 shootings on school grounds so far this year.
As the St. Louis shooting unfolded, a Michigan prosecutor who had just heard the guilty plea for a teenager who killed four students last fall she said she was no longer surprised to learn of another school shooting. “The fact that there’s another school shooting doesn’t surprise me, which is horrible,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said.
“We need to keep the public and inform the public… about how we can prevent gun violence. it is preventableand we should never allow that to be something we should live with.”
It is not clear how the gunman gained access to the school. Authorities have said the gates were locked.
The police commissioner declined to detail how the shooter got in. “I don’t want to make this easy for anyone else,” Sack said.
The gunman did not conceal his weapon when he entered the school, Sack said.
“When he walked in, he was outside… there was no mystery about what was going to happen,” the commissioner said. “He took it out and entered in an aggressive and violent manner.”
Adrianne Bolden, a freshman at the school, said SDKs that the students thought it was a drill until they heard the sirens and saw that their teachers were scared.
“The teacher crawled and was asking for help moving the lockers to the door so they couldn’t get in,” Bolden said. “And we started hearing glass breaking from outside and gunshots outside the door.”
Adrianne told KSDK that the class stood still until the students saw their assistant principal approach one of the classroom’s closed windows. “We opened it, the teacher said to go on, and we all had to jump out the window,” Bolden recalled.
Math teacher David Williams told CNN that everyone went into “instructional mode,” turning off the lights, closing the doors and huddling in the corners so they wouldn’t be seen.
He said he heard someone trying to open the door and a man yelling, “Everyone is going to die.”
A short time later, a bullet went through one of his classroom windows, Williams said.
Williams’ classroom is on the third floor, where Sack said police confronted the shooter.
Eventually, an officer said she was outside and the class ran out the nearby emergency doors.
Security personnel were at the school when the shooter arrived, St. Louis Public Schools director of communications George Sells said.
“We had seven staff members working in the building who did a wonderful job of getting the alarm going off quickly,” Sells said.
Sack said he didn’t know if the school’s security guards had guns.
“Not all public safety security officers are armed,” the police commissioner said.
He said the closed school gates probably slowed the gunman down.
“The school was closed and the gates were locked,” Sack said. CNN affiliate KMOV. “The security staff did an outstanding job of identifying the suspect’s efforts to gain entry and immediately notified other staff members and ensured they contacted us.”
After widespread controversy over the late response to confronting school shooters in Uvalde,Texas, Y park, florida, Sack said responding officers in St. Louis wasted no time rushing to the school and taking the gunman into custody.
“There was no sidewalk conference. There was no discussion,” Sack said. “There was no, ‘Hey, where are you going?’ They just walked in.”
A call about an active shooter at the high school came in around 9:11 a.m., according to a timeline provided by the commissioner.
Police arrived at the scene and made entry four minutes later, at 9:15 a.m.
Officers found the gunman and began “engaging him in a firefight” at 9:23 a.m. Two minutes later, officers reported the suspect was down.
When asked about the eight minutes between officers’ arrival and contact with the gunman, Sack said “eight minutes is not a long time” and that officers had to maneuver through a large school with few entrances and crowds of students and staff evacuating. .
Police found the suspect “not only by hearing the gunshots, but by talking to the children and teachers as they left,” Sack said.
As phone calls poured in from people hiding in different 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 fellow officer’s funeral also responded to the shooting, the commissioner said.
A SWAT team assembled for a training exercise was also able to quickly load into the school for a secondary sweep of the building, Sack said.
Some officers were “off duty; some were in T-shirts, but they had their (ballistic) vests on,” the commissioner said. “They did an excellent job.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect age for 15-year-old Alexandria Bell, who was killed in the shooting.