Classes canceled in Ohio community after school shooting

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 28, 2012 12:28 AM
Classes canceled in Ohio community after school shooting

By Kim Palmer

CHARDON, Ohio (Reuters) - Classes will be canceled again on Tuesday in an Ohio community outside Cleveland, a day after a gunman opened fire in the cafeteria of a high school, killing one student and wounding four others.

A 16-year-old student identified as Daniel Parmertor died as a result of the shooting, the worst at a U.S. high school in 11 months and in Ohio since late 2007, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The suspected teenage gunman, whose name was not released on Monday, was chased from the scene by a teacher and quickly arrested after the morning shooting at Chardon High School, but he was not immediately charged.

The entire school district was closed on Monday and will be closed again on Tuesday as the community grapples with the violence and waits for word on the wounded students.

"We want them to stay home and spend some time reflecting on family," an emotional Joseph Bergant, superintendent of Chardon schools, told a news conference.

He urged parents to hug and kiss their children, and praised the actions of teachers, who had been through disaster training and acted quickly to protect the students.

Two of the four injured students were rushed to Cleveland's MetroHealth hospital where they were said to be in critical condition, according to Chardon Police Chief Tim McKenna. MetroHealth spokeswoman Shannon Mortland, declined on Monday evening to provide an update on their condition.

"We are respecting the privacy of the families," Mortland said. "We have no further information at this time."

A 17-year-old boy, meanwhile, was in serious condition and an 18-year-old girl was stable at Hillcrest Hospital in suburban Cleveland, a spokeswoman said.

Police have not formally identified the suspected gunman, a juvenile. But students, parents of students and local media said his name was T.J. Lane. Police and FBI were seen searching a brown house on Monday in a rural, wooded area of Chardon that was identified in public records as belonging to Thomas Lane.

MOTIVE A MYSTERY

The motive for the shooting, which took place while students were studying and eating breakfast, remains a mystery. Fellow students told local media the suspected gunman was a quiet loner who may have been bullied.

Some witnesses told local media he appeared to deliberately target a table where a student who had started dating his former girlfriend was seated with friends, but Reuters could not immediately confirm that.

A Chardon High School student, Danielle Samples, 16, who was in the cafeteria at the time, told Reuters she heard a series of "pops" and someone yelled to run down the hallway into a classroom. While Samples was in the hall, she heard another round of pops.

"It hasn't hit me yet," Samples said of the experience. "It's very surreal."

She said the suspected shooter was a student at Lake Academy in Willoughby, which serves at-risk students, and that he had been at Chardon's cafeteria waiting for a bus. She said the student lived with his grandparents and sister.

Chardon freshman Sofia Larkins, 14, was sitting with Lane's sister when the shooting began. "She didn't know anything," said Larkins. "She was surprised as anyone."

The two girls fled to a teachers' lounge when the shooting erupted, and began hearing talk that T.J. was the shooter, Larkins said. His sister began crying. Larkins said school officials came to the lounge and took the sister away for questioning.

Chardon, the seat of Geauga county, is a semi-rural, fairly well-educated and affluent town about 35 miles from Cleveland with a population of about 5,000, according to the U.S. Census and Chardon's web site. The town, which describes itself as the center of the state's maple syrup industry, contains neatly restored brick buildings downtown.

The mother of a student in Chardon, who asked not to be identified, said her son knew the accused gunman.

"My son's reaction was 'this doesn't surprise me.' T.J. (Lane) was a nice sweet kid who was misunderstood and he probably cracked from being different," she said.

The deadliest school shooting in the United States was the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech University that left 33 people dead. The worst high school shooting was the 1999 attack at Columbine High School in Colorado that killed 12 students and a teacher.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer, Andrew Stern, Ellen Wulfhorst and James B. Kelleher; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune)