St. Louis school shooting: The shooter’s family sought mental health treatment for him and had his gun taken away, police say




CNN

When family members of Orlando Harris, 19, worried about his mental health, they seemed to do everything right, the St. Louis Police Commissioner said.

“They contacted us, said he had a gun,” Commissioner Michael Sack said Wednesday.

“The mother at the time wanted him out of the house,” he said. “Officers, in their response, released it to someone else, an adult who was legally able to possess it.”

At times, the teen’s family also committed him to a mental institution, Sack said.

Still, Harris managed to gain access to an AR-15 style rifle and 600 rounds of ammunition. And on Monday, he took his lethal arsenal to Central Visual and Performing Arts High School and struck terror into his alma mater.

When the rampage ended, a talented student and a heroic teacher were dead. Harris was killed by officers.

And community members are stunned as to why the proactive interventions described by the police did not seem to be working.

In addition to removing Harris’ gun from the home and getting mental health treatment for the teenager, the shooter’s family took extra steps to help stave off trouble.

“They would search his room on occasion because they were worried,” the police commissioner said. “They were in constant contact with the medical providers who were providing him with medical care.”

Harris’ family also had a system to track items he received in the mail and monitored his interactions with others to try to ensure he was interacting with people and feeling loved, Sack said.

“I have to pay tribute to the family,” the police chief said. “They made every effort they reasonably thought they could. And I think that’s why the mother is so heartbroken by the families who paid for her episode.

After the shooter broke into the school and opened fire, investigators found a notebook and a handwritten note left in the car he was driving, Sack said.

” I have no friends. I have no family. I never had a girlfriend. I never had a social life. I’ve been a lonely loner all my life,” the note read, according to Sack. “It was the perfect storm for a mass shooter.”

The notebook also revealed that Harris seemed to feel a disconnect with the school community and had targeted his former high school, Sack said.

The shooter also wrote that his family was unaware of his plans, Sack said. The police chief said the family never had access to the notebook.

“Mental health is a difficult thing. It’s hard to tell when someone who is going to be violent, or act out, or if they’re just struggling, they’re depressed and they might self-harm,” the police commissioner said.

“It’s just a terrible thing, and it’s hard trying to figure out what could have been going through someone’s mind.”

After the shooter broke into the school, a school official received an urgent, coded message over the intercom: “Miles Davis is in the building.”

It was a signal heard only during active firing exercises. But this time it was real.

Teacher Kristie Faulstich heard the sentence and locked her classroom door.

Less than a minute later, someone began “shoving the handle violently, trying to get in,” Faulstich said.

Alex Macias’ health teacher, Jean Kuczka, also locked the door to her classroom, the student told CNN affiliate KSDK.

But the shooter managed to “find his way”, Alex said.

“He shot Ms. Kuczka, and I just closed my eyes,” Alex said. “I really didn’t want to see anything else. But then, just as I thought he was leaving, I opened my eyes to see him standing there, making eye contact with me.

“And then after making eye contact, he just walked away.”

Students started jumping out of windows to escape, Alex recalls.

But his health teacher, Kuczka, was killed. The 61-year-old died trying to protect her students from the shooter, Faulstich said.

A student, Alexandria Bell, 15, was also killed. The avid dancer was less than a month away from celebrating her Sweet 16.

The school’s dean of arts, Manfret McGhee, ran for his life after a bullet missed him in a hallway, he told KSDK.

He hid in a bathroom, unaware that his own 16-year-old son had been shot. Then he ran to his son’s health class.

“When I first saw him, I saw a huge hole in his trouser leg, and all I could think of was, ‘God, what did he get shot with? ? “, Did he declare.

McGhee used his belt to stop the bleeding.

The shooter was wearing a chest rig with seven rounds of ammunition, the police commissioner said. He also carried more ammo in a bag and threw extra magazines down the stairs and into the hallways along the way.

“It doesn’t take long to flip through a magazine as you look down a long hallway or up or down a stairwell or into a classroom,” Sack said.

The police commissioner credited a quick police response, locked doors and advance training with averting more deaths.

“It was not by the grace of God and that the officers were as close as they were and responded the way they did,” Sack said.

Seven security personnel were also at the school when the shooter arrived, but the shooter did not enter through a checkpoint where security guards were posted, said DeAndre Davis, director of security and Saint Louis Public School Safety.

Security guards stationed at schools in the district are unarmed, Davis said, but mobile officers responding to calls at schools are.

The mass shooting raised questions about whether it would have made a difference if the first person to confront the shooter was also armed.

Matt Davis, president of the St. Louis Public School Board, had a blunt response: “The attacker had a high powered gun – so much so that he was able to break into a secure building. The building is riddled with bullets.

“I don’t know what firepower it would take to stop that person. You saw the police response, it was massive. It was overwhelming,” Davis said.

“I know what would have been different is if that high powered rifle wasn’t available to that individual. It would have made the difference. »

The St. Louis tragedy follows a long string of school shootings by teenagers using AR-15-style rifles – including those in Uvalde, Texas; Parkland, Florida; and Newtown, Connecticut.

“The fact that it takes this level of response to stop a shooting like this because people have access to these weapons of war and can bring them into our schools can never be normal,” Davis said.

“It’s our worst nightmare. … And it can’t happen again.

The Saint Louis Public Schools District plans to add gun safety to its curriculum, Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams said.

“Not just reading, writing and arithmetic, but reading, writing, arithmetic and gun safety,” he said.

Adams said helping students understand how dangerous guns can be will help keep them safe at school, in their neighborhoods and “quite frankly, everywhere now.”

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