Classes canceled in Ohio community hit by school shooting

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 28, 2012 3:58 AM
Classes canceled in Ohio community hit by school shooting

By Kim Palmer

CHARDON, Ohio (Reuters) - Students in an Ohio community shaken by the worst U.S. high school shooting in nearly a year were told to stay home on Tuesday, and the teenage suspect's family said through an attorney they were struggling to comprehend what had happened.

The gunman opened fire in the cafeteria of a high school outside of Cleveland on Monday, killing one student and wounding four others before a teacher chased him from the scene and he was arrested, police said.

One 16-year-old student, Daniel Parmertor, was killed in the shooting at Chardon High School, 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 gunman was not formally identified by police. But students, parents of students and local media identified him as T.J. Lane, a student at a school for at-risk youth whose family said they were in shock over the events and asked for privacy. Lane was not immediately charged.

"The family wanted me to convey to the citizens of Geauga County and Northeastern Ohio that the family is devastated by this most recent event," the Lane family's lawyer Bob Farinacci told local WKYC news.

"This is something that could never have been predicted. T.J.'s family has asked for some privacy while they try to understand how such a tragedy could have occurred and while they mourn this terrible loss for their community."

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 wounded 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.

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.

The motive for the shooting, which took place while students were studying and eating breakfast, remains a mystery. Fellow students told local media the suspect 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.

The Lane family's lawyer described the suspected shooter as a fairly quiet "good kid" who had never been in trouble.

Chardon is a semi-rural, fairly 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 deadliest U.S. school shooting was a 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech University that left 33 people dead. The worst high school shooting was a 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 and Todd Eastham)