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Ohio town, students grieve after 1 killed, 4 hurt in high school shooting

By the CNN Wire Staff
February 28, 2012 -- Updated 0353 GMT (1153 HKT)
The alleged shooter was identified as student T.J. Lane, who attends another school.
The alleged shooter was identified as student T.J. Lane, who attends another school.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Flags will be at half-staff at the Ohio Statehouse and in Geauga County, the governor says
  • Witnesses say student T.J. Lane walked up to a table and started firing
  • He was then chased out by a teacher and arrested, witnesses and authorities say
  • A friend says that Lane seemed like "a very normal, just teenage boy"

Editor's note: Follow local coverage of the Chardon High School shooting from CNN affiliates WEWS, WKYC, WOIO and WJW.

Chardon, Ohio (CNN) -- Schools throughout the small town of Chardon, Ohio, will be closed Tuesday -- except for counselors on hand to help any students who want to come in to talk, to try to come to grips with the bloodshed that left one of their own dead.

Four students, meanwhile, spent the night in local hospitals for gunshot wounds -- two in critical condition at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, and one in serious condition and another in stable condition at Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Chardon police Chief Police Chief Tim McKenna said late Monday afternoon.

They all had been in the Chardon High School cafeteria on Monday morning, when two witnesses saw another student they later identified as T.J. Lane walk up to a table and start firing.

"He was silent the entire time," said Nate Mueller, who was just a few feet away from the shooter. "There was no warning or anything. He just opened fire."

A teacher identified by students as Frank Hall helped chase the gunman out of the school. Police arrested the suspect -- whom they have not named, except to say he's a juvenile -- nearby a short time later.

One of Lane's friends, Haley Kovacik, said she was in "complete shock" that Lane -- whom she described as a "a very normal, just teenage boy" -- could be responsible for the mayhem.

"He did have a sad look in his eyes a lot of the time, but he talked normally (and) he never said anything strange," Kovacik told CNN. "It is a really big shock."

Another friend, Torilyn LaCasse, saw Lane being picked on regularly at school and said he put a wall around himself, reluctant especially to share anything about his personal life.

One glimpse into his mindset may have come December 30, when Lane posted a long, poetic rant on his Facebook page centered "in a quaint lonely town, (where there) sits a man with a frown (who) longed for only one thing, the world to bow at his feet."

"He was better than the rest, all those ones he detests, within their castles, so vain," he said, later thanking those who "liked" the post and saying he'd written it in class one day.

He concluded the post by writing, "Die, all of you."

A student at Chardon High, Evan Erasmus, said the victims were students who attended a nearby vocational school, and were waiting for a bus to take them there. Lane himself is a student at the Lake Academy Alternative School, said the school's interim director, Don Ehas.

The student killed in Monday's shooting was identified by his family as Daniel Parmertor.

"Danny was a bright young boy who had a bright future ahead of him. The family is torn by this loss," the family said in a statement released by MetroHealth Medical Center.

Gov. John Kasich ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Tuesday at the Ohio Statehouse, as well as throughout Geauga County, in honor of Parmetor.

Why he was killed remains a mystery, as school and law enforcement authorities have not offered details as to the suspect's motive.

"I just can't believe it. I don't think it's real," said student Danny Komertz, who witnessed the shooting. "And I just, it kills me that I saw someone hiding, and now that someone is now dead."

Komertz said he heard a pop as he was walking with friends. He looked up to see a boy he did not recognize holding a gun, pointing it at a group of four students.

"He just fired two quick shots at them," said Komertz, a freshman. "I saw one student fall, and I saw the other hiding, trying to get cover underneath the table."

Komertz said he started to run when he saw the gun, but heard a total of five shots.

Multiple calls reporting a shooting flooded into the police dispatch center beginning at 7:38 a.m., McKenna said.

Around that time, student Evan Erasmus said, he had just arrived for his English class when an administrator "yelled 'lockdown!'" over the announcements.

"All of a sudden, all the doors started slamming. You could hear them slam," Erasmus said. "And we all turned off the lights, and we headed towards the corner."

After police got word from a dispatcher that a teacher had chased the suspect out of the school, officers went inside, soon followed by paramedics to help the injured students, McKenna said.

Neil Thomas, who was in his Spanish class at the time of the shooting, said the actions of teacher Frank Hall, the assistant football coach who is thought to have chased the gunman from the school, were very much in character.

"Coach Hall, he always talks about how much he cares about us students, his team and everyone," Thomas said. "And today he really went out and he proved how much he cared about us, that he would take a bullet for us."

It was unclear exactly how the suspect was captured. Initial reports from police indicated that he may have turned himself in to bystanders, but McKenna did not mention that. Instead, he said officers "came up with the suspect" after starting a search shortly after the shooting.

As investigators took over the school, students were evacuated to nearby Maple Elementary School, said Lt. John Hiscox of the sheriff's office.

Local officials, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and several students credited frequent lockdown drills and the quick response of school authorities for helping keep the situation from becoming worse.

The Chardon High shooting was the latest, but hardly the only mass shooting in recent years on school campuses. In addition to several at universities, including an April 2007 rampage at Virginia Tech that left 32 dead, the bloodiest attack on a high school campus was when teens Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves at Colorado's Columbine High in 1999.

Hours after calling off school Monday, Chardon school superintendent Joseph Bergant said there would be no class on Tuesday -- though counselors will be on hand at Chardon Middle School and St. Mary Chardon School, which is alongside the church in which a candlelight vigil is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, according to the superintendent.

"I hope that every parent, if you haven't hugged or kissed your family in the last couple of days, take that time," Bergant said.

CNN's Martin Savidge, Lisa Sylvester, Michael Pearson, Melissa Gray, Chuck Johnston, Richard Greene and Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

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