Sack said Harris had ammunition strapped to his chest, some in a bag, and other magazines were found dumped in the stairwells.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Sack said.
The attack forced students to barricade doors and huddle in the corners of the classroom, jump out of windows and run out of the building for safety. A terrified girl said she was nose to nose with the shooter before her gun apparently jammed and she was able to get away. Several people inside the school said they heard Harris warn, “You’re all going to die!”
Harris, 19, graduated from school last year. The FBI was assisting the police in the investigation. Sack, speaking at a press conference, urged people to come forward when someone who appears to be suffering from mental illness or distress starts “talking about buying guns or hurting other”.
Relatives of those killed mourned their losses.
“Alexzandria was everything to me,” her father, Andre Bell, told KSDK-TV. “She was joyful, wonderful and just a great person.”
Alexzandria was outgoing, loved to dance and was on the school’s junior varsity dance team, her father said.
“She was the girl I loved seeing and hearing about. No matter how I felt, I could always talk to her and it was fine. She was my baby,” Andre Bell said.
Abby Kuczka said her mother was killed when the gunman burst into her classroom and she moved between him and her students.
“My mom loved kids,” Abbey Kuczka told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “She loved her students. I know her students looked at her like she was their mother.
The seven injured students are all 15 or 16 years old. All were listed in stable condition. Sack said four people were shot or scratched, two had bruises and one had a broken ankle – apparently from jumping from the three-story building.
The South St. Louis school was locked down, with seven security guards at the gates, St. Louis Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said. A security guard initially became alarmed when he saw Harris trying to enter through one of the doors. He was armed with a gun and “there was no mystery about what was going to happen. He took it out and came in aggressively and violently,” Sack said.
This guard alerted school officials and ensured that 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 wanting to break into a school.
Police offered this timeline of events: A 911 call came in at 9:11 a.m. alerting police to an active shooter. Officers – some on leave wearing street clothes – arrived at 9:15 a.m.
Police located Harris at 9:23 a.m. on the third floor of the school, where he had barricaded himself in a classroom. Police said in a news release that when Harris fired at officers, they returned fire and ran through the door.
At 9:25 a.m., when Harris pointed his rifle at police, they fired several shots. He was secured by police at 9.32am
Police say Alexandria was found in a hallway and died at the scene. Kuczka was found in a classroom and died in a hospital.
Central Visual and Performing Arts shares a building with another magnet school, the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience. Central has 383 students, Collegiate 336.
It was the 40th school shooting this year resulting in injury or death, according to an Education Week tally – the highest number since it began tracking shootings in 2018. Deadly attacks include the killings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, when 19 children and two teachers died. Monday’s shooting in St. Louis took place 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.
For now, the survivors are coping with the trauma.
The shooter pointed his gun at Raymond Parks, a dance teacher at the school, but did not shoot him, Parks said. The children in his class escaped outside, and Parks stopped traffic and asked someone to call the police. They came quickly.
“You couldn’t have asked for better,” Parks said of the police response.