Metal detectors and other security measures failed to keep a 14-year-old suspended student from opening fire in his downtown Cleveland high school Wednesday, Oct. 10, wounding four people as terrified schoolmates hid in closets and bathrooms and huddled under laboratory desks. The student, Asa Coon, then killed himself.
A fellow student at SuccessTech Academy alternative school said Coon, who was suspended for fighting Monday, had made threats in front of students and teachers last week.
“He’s crazy. He threatened to blow up our school. He threatened to stab everybody,” Doneisha LeVert said. “We didn’t think nothing of it.”
Coon was armed with two .38-caliber revolvers, and police found a duffel bag stocked with ammunition and three knives in a bathroom, officials said. Parents were angry that firearms got into a school equipped with metal detectors that students said were intermittently used.
Most hallways have security cameras and visitors are required to sign in when they enter the school, said a school employee, but many classrooms do not have doors.
Officials said two teachers and two students were shot, and a 14-year-old girl fell and hurt her knee while running.
Witnesses said the shooter moved through the converted, five-story downtown office building, working through the first two floors of administrative offices and up to the third floor of classrooms.
The first person shot, Michael Peek, 14, had punched Coon in the face before the shootings began, said Rasheem Smith, 15.
Antonio Deberry, 17, said he and his classmates hid under laboratory tables and watched the shooter move down the hallway.
Darnell Rodgers, 18, was walking up to another floor when the stairway suddenly flooded with students. “It took me a couple of minutes to realize that I was actually shot,” Rodgers said.
He was treated at a hospital for a graze wound to an elbow. The other two injured teens were taken to a children’s hospital, which would not release their conditions.
Math teacher David Kachadourian, 57, was treated and released for a minor wound to the back of a shoulder. History teacher Michael Grassie, 42, was in fair condition at a hospital after about two hours of surgery. The nature of the surgery was not disclosed.
Coon had been suspended since Monday, Oct. 8, for fighting near the school, said Charles Blackwell, president of SuccessTech’s student-parent organization. He did not know how Coon entered the building Oct. 10.
Blackwell said there was a security guard on the first floor.
After the shooting, shaken teens called their parents on cell phones, most to reassure but in at least one case with terrifying news: “Mom, I got shot.”
Student Doneisha LeVert, who hid in a closet with two other students after she heard a “Code Blue” alert over the loudspeaker, said the shooter had threatened students Oct. 5.
Ronnell Jackson, 15, said he saw a shooter running down a school hallway.
“He was about to shoot me, but I got out just in time,” he said. “He was aiming at me–I got out just in time.”
LeVert said she heard about 10 shots.
“I heard gunshots but I just thought someone was banging a book on the desk,” said Rasheem Smith, 15. He soon realized there was a shooting and told his classmates to flee down the stairs.
Classes were cancelled Thursday, Oct. 11, and the school previously was scheduled to be closed on Friday, Oct. 12.
The shooting occurred across the street from the FBI office in downtown Cleveland, and students were sent to the FBI site.
SuccessTech Academy is an alternative high school in the Cleveland city school district that emphasizes technology and entrepreneurship. It is housed on several floors of the district’s downtown Cleveland Lakeside Avenue administration building. The school was opened in 2002 with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“It’s a shining beacon for the Cleveland Metropolitan School System,” said John Zitzner, founder and president of E City Cleveland, a nonprofit group aimed at teaching business skills to inner-city teens. “It’s orderly, it’s disciplined, it’s calm, it’s focused.”
The school, opened five years ago, ranks in the middle of the state’s ratings for student performance. Its graduation rate is 94 percent, well above the district’s rate of 55 percent.