A day before students returned to classes for the first time since one of their peers opened fire Wednesday, a teacher who was shot by Asa Coon at SuccessTech Academy in Cleveland spoke out for the first time, describing a look of “total anger” on the troubled 14-year-old’s face.
Michael Grassie, one of the four victims in the shooting that ended with Coon taking his own life, said Coon was holding two revolvers and had an angry look on his face when he burst into Grassie’s classroom, according to an Associated Press report. Before Coon entered, Grassie said he unlocked a storage closet in the room so that his students could hide inside when shots began ringing out in the hallway (see “14-Year-Old Gunman Shoots Four, Commits Suicide At Cleveland High School” ).
After waving off another student as if to signal that he was being spared, Coon shot Grassie in the abdomen. “I was trying to get my storage room open when Asa Coon came into my classroom,” Grassie said. “I don’t know what he was saying. He stood there like this and he had a gun in each hand and he said, ’Now what do you got to say to me?’ Then he just shot me. I heard the shot, I felt the impact, I looked down and saw the blood, and I was still standing there. Asa was still standing there.” Along with another teacher and two students, Grassie was one of four people injured in the rampage; all four are now out of the hospital.
Sitting in a wheelchair at a local hospital before being discharged Monday, Grassie, 42, said he could vividly recall the look on Coon’s face as he began firing (see “Cleveland School Shooter Fit Sadly Predictable Profile: Bullied Loner From Troubled Home” ). “Anger, total anger,” Grassie said. “Real hatred. It’s something I haven’t seen on a 14-year-old’s face before.”
After three days off following the shooting, the students of the technology- and entrepreneurship-focused school in downtown Cleveland returned to classes Tuesday (October 16) and were greeted with cheers and applause, AP reported. Community leaders and members of local civic organizations formed a human pathway for the students and teachers to enter the school, which now has enhanced security, including an armed security guard and a new metal detector. Neither was in effect last Wednesday when Coon returned to school while on suspension and slipped past a lone security guard, seemingly intent on settling scores with teachers he believed had slighted him.
Grassie said Coon was in danger of failing his world-history class and that made the young man angry. When Grassie tried to call Coon’s home to discuss the boy’s behavior in class, he was unable to reach Coon’s mother.
At press time, WKYC in Cleveland reported that police have issued a warrant on a charge of obstructing justice for Lori Looney, Coon’s mother, who allegedly lied to police last week when they went to her home after the shooting in search of Coon’s older brother, Stephen. Police cannot find Looney, who claimed 19-year-old Stephen Coon — wanted on an outstanding warrant in an unrelated matter — was not at home, when he actually was.
A week before the shooting, Grassie said Asa Coon tried to pick a fight with him, though he did not know why. Coon’s repeated behavior problems had led to plans by the school’s administration to try and transfer him to another school, which Grassie said should have been a warning sign that something was amiss with the young man. Coon had a history of mental problems and had reportedly attempted suicide a year earlier.
On the day the new security measures were put into place following a review by the CEO of the Cleveland school system, Grassie criticized the former lack of security at the academy, saying that a metal detector would have identified anyone entering with a weapon and that teachers had pressed for years to get a guard assigned to patrol the building’s upper floors, which house the school’s classrooms.
School officials are still reviewing tapes from 26 cameras in trying to determine how Coon entered the building with the weapons. In light of the shooting, school officials said they will install metal detectors and post a security guard in each of the district’s 110 buildings.