Two people were killed and six others were injured after a gunman opened fire at a St. Louis high school before he was fatally shot by police at the scene Monday, officials said.
An adult woman and a teenage girl were fatally shot at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, and the shooter was shot by police inside the school, Commissioner Mike Sack said in a news briefing.
“This is a heartbreaking day for all of us,” Sack said. “It’s gonna be tough. While on paper we may have nine victims… we have hundreds of others. Everyone who survived is going to take home trauma.”
Eight people, including the gunman, were taken to the hospital, Sack said. The adult woman died at the hospital, and the teen girl died at the school. The suspect also died at the hospital, he added.
Officers were in the process of notifying victims’ families, Sack said. He added the suspect has not been positively identified yet.
Injuries ranged from shrapnel to gunshot wounds, he said. The injured were being treated, he said.
“As their condition changes, we hope for the better,” Sack said.
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Officers received a call for an active shooter around 9:10 a.m. local time, Sack said. Officers arrived “within a couple of minutes” and “immediately” entered the school, he said.
Students informed the officers there was a shooter “armed with a long gun,” Sack said. Officers ran to the sound of shots, exchanged gunfire with the shooter and shot him on the third floor of the building, Sack said. No officers were injured, he said.
“The officers did an amazing job,” Sack said.
Officers, a SWAT team and bomb dog cleared the building, Sack said. Investigators were conducting interviews, he said.
By 10:45 a.m. local time, the scene was secure, and there was no active threat, the department said.
Asked how the gunman gained entry to the school, Sack told reporters the school’s doors were locked.
“Don’t be confused,” Sack said. “The school was closed, and the doors were locked.”
Pressed on the issue, Sack added: “The security staff did an outstanding job identifying the suspect’s efforts to enter and immediately notified other staff.”
He declined to elaborate further.
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The gunman was about 20 years old, Sack said. Officers were trying to determine the gunman’s relationship to the school and victims, he said. Officers located his vehicle in the area, Sack said.
About 700 students were impacted by the incident, St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said. Seven security guards were in the school at the time, he said.
“We’re working aggressively to try to find out what occurred and to make sure that this does not happen again,” Adams said.
Earlier, the school and neighboring Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience locked down, Saint Louis Public Schools wrote on Twitter.
Students were evacuated from the schools, the district said. FOX2 livestream helicopter video of the scene showed dozens of students with backpacks running from the campus. Others could be seen attempting to climb over a fence.
“Hundreds of kids went out of the building, which they should have done,” Sacks said.
The district was encouraging parents and guardians to go to Gateway STEM High School to reunite with students.
Police were asking people to avoid the area, and the investigation into the shooting was ongoing. FBI officers were on the scene.
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Nylah Jones, a ninth grader at the school, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she was in math class when the shooter fired into her room from the hallway.
Central Visual and Performing Arts High School is a magnet school with 400 students, according to the school’s website.
At the news conference, Mayor Tishaura Jones recalled visiting the school on the first day of classes. Students had been “excited” about the upcoming school year, she said.
“They were bright-eyed, bushy-tailed. We laughed. We sang,” she said. “And now to be here for such a devastating and traumatic situation breaks my hurt, especially as a mother.”
Trauma will “reverberate” in the community for “days and months to come,” she said.
“Our children shouldn’t have to experience this. They shouldn’t have to go through active shooter drills in case something happens,” she said.
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Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., attended the news briefing and called on families to reach out to her office for support.
“If you need help, it’s okay to not be okay,” she said. “It’s okay to not hold it to yourself. We can help.”
State Rep. Crystal Quade, Missouri House Minority Leader, took to Twitter to call on lawmakers to “do better to address the epidemic of gun violence killing Missourians.”
The incident is the 257th incident of gunfire on school grounds this calendar year, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. It is the third active shooter situation, following the shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and a prep school in Washington, D.C., according to lead researcher David Riedman.
There have been at least 39 school shootings this year that resulted in injuries or deaths, according to Education Week. That’s the most in a single year since the outlet began tracking such incidents in 2018.