Three people are dead, including the gunman, after a shooting at a St. Louis high school Monday morning sent multiple people to hospitals, police said.
Chaos unfolded shortly after 9 a.m. when authorities learned of a shooter with a long gun inside Central Visual and Performing Arts High School. The school and the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, which is in the same building, were placed on lockdown.
The shooter, who appeared to be about 20 years old, was taken into custody inside the performing arts school, according to a tweet from St. Louis Public Schools. He was pronounced dead a short time later, after exchanging gunfire with police, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said at an afternoon news conference.
“While on paper we might have nine victims, eight who were transported and one remained, we have hundreds of others,” Chief Mike Sack said at the news conference. “Everyone who survived here is going to take home trauma.”
One of the victims was identified as Jean Kuczka, a health teacher at the high school. Her daughter, Abbey Kuczka, confirmed that her mother was killed by the gunman.
“I found out just a few hours ago,” she said Monday afternoon.
The health teacher was a grandmother of seven and an avid bike rider, according to her profile on the high school’s website.
The names of the other victim, a teenage girl, and the gunman were not released.
Multiple victims remain in hospitals with injuries ranging from gunshot wounds to being struck by shrapnel. Police did not release any information about their conditions.
Authorities have not disclosed the shooter’s connection to the school or a motive for the gunfire.
‘I need to stay alive’
Shortly after the shooting, harrowing stories of survival started to emerge, offering a glimpse of the frightening moments inside the school and the lengths some teachers and students went through to escape.
Adrienne Bolden, a freshman at high school, said he and his classmates had to jump out of a window to escape the gunman.
When asked what was going through his mind at that point, he said, “that I need to stay alive.”
Bolden said he initially thought the shooting was an intruder drill, but that changed when he started hearing sirens outside.
“The teacher, she crawled over and she was asking for help to move the lockers to the door so they can’t get in,” he said.
Bolden helped his teacher move the lockers before trying to jump out of a classroom window that had concrete at the bottom of it.
“So, we had to wait a little longer before the assistant principal came up to one of the windows that was locked, and when we opened it the teacher said to come on and we all had to jump out of the window.”
Doors were locked; unclear how gunman got in school
Sack said that the doors at the school were locked, which caused the gunman to pause. He did not clarify how the gunman was able to get into the school.
There were seven active security guards in the school building at the time of the shooting, according to school officials.
Police asked the public to stay away from the area during the investigation. Students were evacuated, and parents were directed to Gateway STEM High School to reunite with their children.
The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded to the scene.
The FBI’s St. Louis field office is asking anyone with pictures or videos of the shooting to submit them to authorities.
“At this time, the scene is secure and there is no active threat,” police said in a tweet.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones called the shooting “a devastating and traumatic situation.”
“I’m heartbroken for these families who send their children to our schools hoping that they will be safe,” she said at the news conference. “Our children shouldn’t have to experience this, they shouldn’t have to go through active shooter drills in case something happens. And unfortunately that happened today.”
In a statement, St. Louis Public Schools said all schools in the district have been placed on “hard lockdown,” meaning that there will be limited movement in and outside the schools until dismissal.
“Counselors are on site and will continue to avail themselves to students, staff and families for as long as needed,” the district said. “Administrators and counselors are meeting with families.”
U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., was also at the school talking to students and their families.
“We’ve been going from family to family talking with the students,” Bush, whose district includes St. Louis, told NBC affiliate KSDK. “Some of the students are still here because they just they don’t feel ready to leave yet.”
All after-school activities are canceled Monday evening, according to the statement.
“We will remain in touch with our families and community,” the district said.