The school shooter had an AR-15 weapon and 600 rounds of ammunition

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St. LOUIS (AP) — The 19-year-old gunman who killed a teacher and a 15-year-old girl at a St. Louis high school was armed with an AR-15 rifle and more than 600 rounds of ammunition, Police Commissioner Michael Sack said Tuesday.

Orlando Harris also left behind a handwritten note explaining Monday’s shooting at Central High School for the Visual and Performing Arts. Tenth-grader Alexandria Bell and 61-year-old physical education teacher Zhan Kuchka died, seven students were injured.

Police killed Harris in a shootout.

Seck read a note from Harris, in which the young man complained that he had no friends, no family, no girlfriend, and was living in isolation. In a memo, he called it “the perfect storm for a mass shooter.”

Garris had some rounds strapped to his chest, some in a bag, and other magazines were found dumped on stairwells, Seck said.

The attack prompted students to barricade doors and huddle in the corners of classrooms, jump from windows and run out of the building in search of safety. One terrorized girl said she was face-to-face with the gunman before his gun apparently jammed and she was able to escape. Several people at the school said they heard Harris warn, “You’re all going to die!”

Harris, 19, graduated last year. The FBI was assisting police in the investigation. Seck, speaking at a press conference, urged people to come forward if someone who appears to be suffering from mental illness or suffering begins “talking about acquiring a firearm or harming others.”

Relatives of the dead mourned their loss.

“Alexandria was my everything,” said her father, Andre Bell KSDK-TV. “She was joyful, wonderful and just a wonderful person.”

Alexandria, a 10th grade student, was outgoing, loved to dance and was a member of the school’s student dance team.

“She was the kind of girl I loved to see and hear. No matter how I felt, I could always talk to her and that was good. That was my baby, Andre Bell said.

Abby Kuchka said her mother was killed when a gunman burst into her classroom and she stood between him and her students.

“My mom loved kids,” said Abby Kuchka St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “She loved her students. I know her students looked up to her as their mom.”

All seven injured students are 15-16 years old. All were in stable condition. Sack said four suffered gunshot or siege wounds, two had bruises and one had a broken ankle, apparently from jumping from the three-story building.

The school in south St. Louis was on lockdown, with seven security guards at each door, St. Louis Superintendent of Schools Calvin Adams said. The security guard was initially concerned when he saw a gunman trying to enter one of the doors. He was armed with a gun and “there was no mystery about what was going to happen. He pulled it out and came in aggressively, hard,” Sack said.

This security guard alerted the school authorities and made sure the police were contacted.

Harris still managed to get inside — Sack declined to say how, saying he didn’t want to make it “easy” for anyone trying to break into the school.

Seck offered the following timeline of events: A 911 call came in at 9:11 a.m. alerting police to an active shooter. Officers – some of them in street clothes – arrived at 9:15 a.m. Police found Harris at 9:23 a.m. and began shooting at him. Harris was shot at 9:25 a.m. At 9:32 a.m., the police arrested him

According to Seck, Harris was armed with nearly a dozen high-capacity 30-round magazines.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Sack said.

Central Visual and Performing Arts shares a building with another magnet school, the University School of Medicine and Biological Sciences. 383 students study in the central school, 336 in the student school.

Monday’s school shooting was the 40th this year that resulted in injuries or deaths, according to Education Week, the most in any year since it began tracking shootings in 2018. The deadly attacks include the killings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, when 19 children and two teachers were killed. Monday’s shooting in St. Louis came the same day a Michigan teenager pleaded guilty to terrorism and first-degree murder in a school shooting that killed four students in December 2021.

Tanya Gholston said she was saved when the gunman froze as he entered her classroom. “All I heard was two gunshots and he went in there with a gun,” the 16-year-old told the Post-Dispatch. “I tried to run and I couldn’t run. He and I looked into each other’s eyes, but I got out because his gun jammed.”

The gunman pointed a gun at Raymond Parks, a dance teacher at the school, but did not shoot him, Parks said. The kids in his class ran outside and Parks tried to stop traffic and get someone to call the police. They came quickly.

“You couldn’t ask for better,” Parks said of the police response.

Ashley Wrench said she was teaching sophomore algebra when she heard a loud bang. Then the school intercom announced, “Miles Davis is in the building.”

“This is our hacker code,” Wrench said.

The gunman tried to open the classroom door but did not break in, she said. When the police started banging, she wasn’t sure at first if it was really law enforcement until she was able to look out and see the officers.

“Let’s go!” she said to the children.

Kuchka, the slain teacher, taught health at Central High School for 14 years and recently started coaching cross country at the college, her daughter said. “She was definitely looking forward to retirement. She was there,” Kuchka Abbey said.

Kuchka’s biography on the school website said she was a married mother of five and grandmother of seven. She was an avid cyclist and in 1979 was on the national championship hockey team at what is now Missouri State University.

“I can’t imagine myself in any other career than teaching,” Kuchka wrote on the website. “In high school, I taught swim lessons at the YMCA. From that moment on, I realized that I wanted to be a teacher.”

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