A gunman broke into a St. Louis high school Monday morning, killing a 61-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl and injuring six others before police killed him in an exchange of gunfire.
The shooting just after 9 a.m. at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School forced students to barricade doors and huddle in classroom corners, jump from windows and run out of the building to seek safety. One terrorized girl said she was eye-to-eye with the shooter before his gun apparently jammed and she was able to run out.
Speaking at a news conference late Monday, Police Commissioner Michael Sack said the shooter was a 19-year-old man with no criminal record who graduated from the high school last year.
One of the victims was identified as Jean Kuczka, a health teacher at the high school. Her daughter, Abbey Kuczka, confirmed to NBC News that her mother was killed by the gunman.
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"I found out just a few hours ago," she told NBC Monday afternoon.
The health teacher was a grandmother of seven and an avid bike rider, according to her profile on the high school's website.
St. Louis Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said seven security guards were in the school at the time, each at an entry point of the locked building. One of the guards noticed the man was trying to get in at a locked door, but couldn’t. The guard notified school officials and ensured that police were contacted, Sack said.
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Student Keyshawn Brooks said told NBC affiliate KSDK that the shooter forced his way into his classroom.
“They had shot our classroom door down and a man opened the door and he was like, ‘Y’all are going to die today,’” Brooks told the station.
He said he watched the man shoot his teacher and three students before leaving the room.
“He shot the teacher first. She fell to the floor. Another boy got shot in the hand and he was bleeding. Two other girls got shot,” Brooks said. “When he left the room, we opened the window and we jumped out.”
“It was that timely response by that security officer, the fact that the door did cause pause for the suspect, that bought us some time,” Sack said.
Sack declined to say how the man eventually got inside, armed with what he described as a long gun.
Officers worked to get students out of the three-story brick building, then “ran to that gunfire, located that shooter and engaged that shooter in an exchange of gunfire,” killing him, Sack said.
Some of the six people hospitalized suffered gunshot wounds, while others were struck by shrapnel Sack said. He did not provide any information on their conditions.
One student, 16-year-old Taniya Gholston, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she was in a room when the shooter entered.
“All I heard was two shots and he came in there with a gun,” Gholston said. “And I was trying to run and I couldn’t run. Me and him made eye contact but I made it out because his gun got jammed. But we saw blood on the floor.”
Ninth-grader Nylah Jones told the Post-Dispatch she was in math class when the shooter fired into the room from the hallway. The shooter was unable to get into the room and banged on the door as students piled into a corner, she said.
Janay Douglas’s 15-year-old daughter got stuck in a hallway when the school was locked down. Douglas said she received a call from her daughter, letting her know she had heard shots.
“One of her friends busted through the door, he was shot in the hand, and then her and her friends just took off running. The phone disconnected,” Douglas said. “I was on my way.”
The shooting left St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones shaken.
“Our children shouldn’t have to experience this,” Jones said at the news conference. “They shouldn’t have to go through active shooter drills in case something happens. And unfortunately that happened today.”
Central Visual and Performing Arts High School is a magnet school specializing in visual art, musical art and performing art with about 400 students. The district website says the school’s “educational program is designed to create a nurturing environment where students receive a quality academic and artistic education that prepares them to compete successfully at the post-secondary level or perform competently in the world of work.”
Source: The Gun Violence Archive