A 14-year-old student opened fire in the hallways of SuccessTech Academy high school in downtown Cleveland Wednesday afternoon (October 10), injuring five people. The student — who has been identified as Asa H. Coon, according to The Associated Press — then shot and killed himself.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson spoke to the media several hours after the incident, saying two teachers — a 57-year-old man who was later identified as David Kachadourian, and a yet-unidentified 42-year-old — were shot and injured in the incident, but that they were in stable condition. He also said that an 18-year-old male, Darnell Rodgers, was treated for a gunshot wound to the elbow and released, and that a 14-year-old male was in stable condition with a gunshot wound to the side. A fifth person, a 14-year-old female student, was also injured when she hurt her knee in the aftermath; she was treated and released.
Dr. Eugene Sanders, CEO of Cleveland's metropolitan school district, said classes would be canceled for the entire district on Thursday and that an already-scheduled day off on Friday would be used to speak to teachers about the incident and come up with strategies to avoid similar situations in the future.
Coon, who had been suspended earlier this week for fighting, entered the school with two handguns and began opening fire in the early afternoon, hitting several students on at least two floors of the school, according to CNN. While Coon was running through the halls, the principal called out a "code blue" alert, telling students to get to a safe space, with some hiding in closets or on the floors of their classrooms. Police responded to the incident within two minutes and quickly secured the building. A police spokesperson said Coon took his own life before police arrived at the school.
SuccessTech Academy, which only has 250 students and 30 teachers, was founded five years ago with help from a large grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a high-tech academy where every student was given access to their own computer and has been described as a select, "best and brightest"-style institution. One parent told CNN that the school had no metal detectors and that there was overcrowding in the classrooms. Another parent described the school as a close-knit community. Sanders said he could not recall the request from parents for metal detectors or more security at the school.
Rodgers, one of the victims, spoke to reporters after being released from the hospital. "It took me a couple minutes to realize I was actually shot," he said. "When my arm started burning, that's when I realized I was actually shot." Coon appeared to be aiming for someone else, Rodgers said, and that the bullet "probably deflected off something" and hit him in the elbow. Rodgers also expressed concern about his other classmates and teachers and said he hoped the school would implement tighter security.
Seventeen-year-old Antonio Deberry, also a student at SuccessTech Academy, said he ducked beneath a laboratory table and saw Coon walk through the hallway. "I saw him walking past. He didn't see us, we saw him," said Deberry, adding that Coon swore and shot multiple times.
Doneisha LeVert also hid, in a closet with other students, after the "code blue" alert was issued. She said students and teachers saw Coon making threats last week. "He's crazy," she said. "He threatened to blow up our school. He threatened to stab everybody. We didn't think nothing of it."
A friend of Coon's told CNN that the 14-year-old often talked about how he "worshiped the devil" and said if he shot up the school he would let the young man and another friend go. Fox News reported that he had a criminal and domestic-violence history.
Another student said, "I knew that dude was crazy, man. He always wore a trench coat." He also said the student wore a visible pistol belt around his leg (with no gun in it) to school on several occasions and that at least one teacher was aware of it and saw the gun belt but took no action.
A parent who is the president of the parents' association said the classrooms went from having 15 to 30 students, with overcrowding creating tensions among students. He also said there was only one security guard on duty in the building and that that person worked only the first-floor administrative level and did not walk the floors of the school, which had classrooms on the third, fourth and fifth floor. "We've been fighting to get security back for the past two or three years and they denied it," the parent told CNN. "Tension was high in the school, it was just too crowded."
The police spokesperson said it was too early to tell if Coon had any connection to the victims or if the shooting was random. It was also unclear at press time how Coon, who was not supposed to be in school on Wednesday because of the suspension, was able to gain access to the building and how he was able to bring in two handguns with him.
[This story was originally published at 1:51 pm E.T. on 10.10.2007]