ST. LOUIS – St. Louis police and many other city and school officials gathered Tuesday to share updates on the deadly shooting Monday at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School.
A 19-year-old gunman, Orlando Harris, killed two people Monday morning in a shooting at the south city school. Police later shot and killed Harris, who hurt seven others in the incident.
“The threat here is over. However, we’re going to continue to be vigilant in our schools and in our neighborhoods, to be present and alert for situations that could create harm in our community,” said Michael Sack, interim St. Louis Police Chief, during the news conference Tuesday.
Sack confirmed Tuesday that Harris entered the building with only one weapon, an AR-15 rifle, but with more than 600 rounds of ammunition. That included seven magazines of ammunition on a chest rig he wore and eight magazines of ammunition in a field bag he carried.
DeAndre Davis, Director of Safety and Security for St. Louis Public Schools, says Harris did not enter the school through a checkpoint. Within minutes being notified of shots fired, police responded to the scene and exchanged gunfire with Harris.
Davis says the security officers at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School when the shooting broke out were not armed, though officers that responded to the active shooter alert were armed.
According to Sack and Davis, officers with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department were trained on active shooter situations about a month ago, including officers who assist with St. Louis Public Schools.
“Officers were aware of what happened, the magnitude of what was happening,” said Davis. “Our officers were there and directing responding officers directly where the shooter was. … They did exactly what they were supposed to do.”
Harris was a graduate of CVPA and had no prior criminal history. While the exact motive has not yet been determined, police presented some documents Tuesday that may have hinted toward mental health struggles.
Some paperwork inside a car tied to Harris included this handwritten note:
“We can see some of what’s going on inside his mind. He feels isolated, he feels alone, quite possibly angry and resentful of others. … So a desire to lash out,” said Sack.
Sack reminded community members of the “See something, say something” approach to address any suspicious behavior, particularly any comments involving guns with people dealing with mental health struggles.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones says the tragedy is one of many that should heighten action over gun control.
“The scourge of gun violence that continues to claim our children and families in their communities is a national emergency,” said Jones. “It’s a public health crisis that requires federal action.”
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Public Schools district has activated three new resources for mental health since Monday. More details can be found on the school’s mental health tab of the website. The district is also working on a long-term plan.
“We’re collaborating with our community partners, as well as the mayor’s office and U.S. Department of Education,” said Dr. Michael Brown, deputy superintendent of student support services for SLPS. “We’re working to come up with a next-steps, long-term plan.”
Police and other officials did not disclose any updates about the health of seven other injured during the incident Monday. Longtime teacher Jean Kuczka, 61, and student Alexandria Bell, 15, died in the shooting.
In light of recent events, Jones and other speakers Tuesday encouraged people to call the Behavioral Health Response’s 24/7 hotline at 314-469-6644 or text “Be Heard” to 31658 if in need of any additional mental health resources in the St. Louis region.