The 19-year-old gunman who killed two people and wounded several others at his former high school 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, over 600 rounds of ammunition and more than a dozen high-capacity magazines, St. Louis police Commissioner Michael Sack said.
Harris died at a hospital after a gun battle with officers.
Investigators found a handwritten note in the car Harris drove to the school. Sack detailed some of the passages:
“I don’t have any friends. I don’t have any family. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’ve never had a social life. I’ve been an isolated loner my entire life,” the note said, 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 quick law enforcement response – including by off-duty officers – for 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 the security guards stationed in the district’s schools are not armed, but mobile officers who respond to calls at schools are.
“For some people that would cause a stir of some sort,” Davis said Tuesday. “For us, we thought it’s best for our officers, for the normalcy of school for kids, to not have officers armed in the school.”
A talented dancer and a heroic teacher were killed
Student Alexandria Bell, 15, and teacher Jean Kuczka, 61, were gunned down 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 she said, ‘They shot Ms. Kuczka.’ And then she said that Ms. Kuczka had put herself between the gunman and the students,” Faulstich said.
Kuczka was looking forward to retiring in just 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 am so upset. I need somebody – police, community folks, somebody – to make this make sense.”
He joins a growing list of parents grappling with the reality of their child being killed at school.
Across the country, at least 67 shootings have happened on school grounds so far this year.
Students will be able to return to the school as early as Thursday to retrieve their belongings and will attend online classes until the school reopens, St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams said.
It could take up to two months before the school will be ready for in-person classes, he said.
Adams also said the district is planning to add gun safety to its curriculum.
“The gun safety initiative, quite frankly, was a plan put together to try to address the kind of issues that happen outside of our school district, outside of our school buildings, in terms of the number of students who have been shot in the city of St. Louis, and that die, quite frankly, as a result of incidents that happened outside of the school environment,” he said.
‘How did that man get inside the school?’
Bell, the father of the slain teen, said he’s struggling to get answers about what happened.
“I really want to know: How did that man get inside the school?” he told KSDK.
Authorities have said the doors were locked. But the St. Louis police commissioner declined to detail how the shooter got in.
“I don’t want to make this easy for anybody else,” Sack said.
The gunman didn’t conceal his weapon when entering the school, Sack said.
“When he entered, it was out … there was no mystery about what was going to happen,” the commissioner said. “He had it out and entered in an aggressive, violent manner.”
‘Miles Davis is in the building’
Faulstich said school’s principal came over the intercom and used the code phrase “Miles Davis is in the building” to let faculty know an active shooter was in the building.
“I instantly but calmly went 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 her second-floor classroom door, Faulstich said, someone started “violently jostling the handle, trying to get in.”
“I absolutely commend my students for their response,” Faulstich said. “Even in the moments when they were hearing gunfire going on all around they stood quiet and I know they did it to keep each other safe.”
Adrianne Bolden, a freshman at the school, told KSDK that students thought the school was conducting a drill – until they heard the sirens and noticed their teachers were scared.
“The teacher, she crawled over and she was asking for help to move the lockers to the door so they can’t get in,” Bolden said. “And we started hearing glass breaking from the outside and gunshots outside the door.”
Sophomore Brian Collins, 15, suffered gunshot wounds to his hands and jaws. He escaped by jumping from a classroom window onto a ledge, his mother VonDina Washington said.
“He told me they heard an active shooter notification over the intercom so everyone in the class hid,” Washington said. According to her son, the gunman then came into 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 of them jumped.
Brian has numbness in his hands and trouble moving some of his right-hand fingers.
“He’s really good at drawing,” Washington said. “He went to CVPA for visual arts, and we’re hoping he’ll be able to draw again.”
Math teacher David Williams told CNN everyone went into “drill mode,” turning off lights, locking doors and huddling in corners so they couldn’t be seen.
He said he heard someone trying to open the door and a man yell, “You are all going to f**king 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 police engaged the shooter.
Eventually, an officer said she was outside, and the class ran out through nearby emergency doors.
Officers rushed in about 4 minutes after the shooting started
Security personnel were at the school when the gunman arrived, St. Louis Public Schools Communications Director George Sells said.
“We had the seven personnel working in the building who did a wonderful job getting the alarm sounded quickly,” Sells said.
The commissioner did say the school doors being locked likely delayed the gunman.
“The school was closed and the doors were locked,” Sack told CNN affiliate KMOV. “The security staff did an outstanding job identifying the suspect’s efforts to enter, and immediately notified other staff and ensured that we were contacted.”