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A shooter opened fire inside a St. Louis high school Monday morning, killing two and injuring seven others.
The shots rang out inside Central Visual and Performing Arts High School just after 9 a.m., sending students and faculty running in terror and scrambling to hide just as the school day had started.
The deceased victims were an adult woman and a teenage girl, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Commissioner Michael Sack said in a news conference. They were not immediately identified to the public.
The injured victims were transported to hospitals, where they are being treated for gunshot wounds and “trample injuries.”
The suspect in the shooting is also dead, having been shot by a responding police officer, Sack said.
Sack called it a “heartbreaking day,” and said the victims go far beyond just the ones who received physical wounds. “We have hundreds of others — everyone who survived is going to take on trauma,” he said.
“It’s terrible to think about,” Sack added. “Here is a safe place where kids go to learn, to grow, to develop, and something like this happens.”
Police are still working to identify the suspect, but said he appeared to be “about 20 years of age.” Any connection between the suspect and the school, as well as a possible motive, were not immediately known.
Doors to enter the building were locked, Sack said, noting that a school security guard who noticed the man trying to get inside “immediately notified other staff and ensured that [police] were contacted.”
“It was that timely response by that security officer, the fact that the door did cause pause for the suspect, that bought us some time,” Sack said.
Many students and faculty members didn’t know anything was wrong until the principal made an announcement over the loudspeaker, using a code phrase intended for shootings, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Initially, some thought it was only a drill, but then they heard gunfire. David Williams, a math teacher, told the newspaper he heard a man say, “You are all going to [expletive] die.”
A student, 16-year-old Taniya Gholston, said she saw the shooter firsthand but did not recognize him, and that his gun jammed at one point. She recalled hearing him say something along the lines of being “sick of this damn school,” she told the Post-Dispatch.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones thanked the first responders who “ran in and made sure our babies were safe,” at times becoming choked up.
“I’m heartbroken for these families, who send their children to our schools hoping that they’ll be safe,” Jones said 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.”
The American Public Health Association says gun violence in the US is a public health crisis. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. As of Oct. 24, at least 16,532 people have died from gun violence this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. Experts say guns are also the leading cause of death for children and teens in the US.
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