A gunman has opened fire at a high school in the US state of Missouri, killing a woman and a teenage girl and injuring six people, officials said, as the United States continues to reel from deadly shootings at schools.
The attack on Monday morning at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St Louis forced students to barricade doors and huddle in classroom corners, jump from windows and run out of the building to seek safety.
One girl said she was eye-to-eye with the shooter before his gun apparently jammed and she was able to run out.
Police Commissioner Michael Sack said during a news conference that the shooter was about 20 years old but did not provide a name for him or his victims. Sack declined to say if the woman killed was a teacher.
He said the gunman, who was armed with a “long gun”, was fatally wounded in an exchange of gunfire with police officers who arrived at the school within a couple of minutes of receiving a report of an active shooter.
“Officers began to clear the building looking for the shooter,” the police commissioner said. “Upon hearing gunfire, they ran to that gunfire, located the shooter and engaged that shooter in an exchange of gunfire.”
Our department responded to an active shooting incident this morning at Central VP School. A suspect was taken into custody.
WE ARE ASKING THE PUBLIC TO PLEASE AVOID THE AREA OF S. KINGSHIGHWAY FROM SOUTHWEST TO ARSENAL UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. THIS INVESTIGATION IS ONGOING.
— St. Louis, MO Police (@SLMPD) October 24, 2022
The other six people were hospitalised with gunshot and shrapnel wounds, Sack said. He did not provide any information on their conditions.
“While on paper we might have nine victims, … we have hundreds of others,” Sack said. “Everyone who survived this is going to take home trauma.”
The US has seen a series of deadly school shootings in recent months, renewing a nationwide debate around gun control and calls for Congress to make it more difficult for young people to buy firearms.
One of the deadliest incidents took place in May in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 children and two adults in a rampage that also spurred widespread condemnation of the local law enforcement response.
In the Uvalde attack, police and other law enforcement officers were castigated for waiting more than an hour before confronting the shooter, who was locked in a classroom with students and teachers. The suspect in that case entered the school building through an unlocked door.
On Monday, St Louis Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said seven security guards were in the school at the time of the shooting, each at an entry point of the locked building.
One of the guards noticed the man was trying to get in at a locked door but could not. The guard notified school officials and ensured that police were contacted, Sack said.
One student, 16-year-old Taniya Gholston, told the St Louis Post-Dispatch that she was in a room that the shooter entered.
“All I heard was two shots and he came in there with a gun,” Gholston said. “And I was trying to run and I couldn’t run. Me and him made eye contact, but I made it out because his gun got jammed. But we saw blood on the floor.”
Ninth-grader Nylah Jones told the Post-Dispatch she was in math class when the shooter fired into the room from the hallway. The shooter was unable to get into the room and banged on the door as students piled into a corner, she said.
Janay Douglas’s 15-year-old daughter got stuck in a hallway when the school was locked down. Douglas said she received a call from her daughter, letting her know she had heard shots.
“One of her friends busted through the door,” Douglas said. “He was shot in the hand, and then her and her friends just took off running. The phone disconnected. I was on my way.”
The shooting also left St Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones shaken. “Our children shouldn’t have to experience this,” Jones said at the news conference.
“They shouldn’t have to go through active shooter drills in case something happens, and unfortunately that happened today.”
Central Visual and Performing Arts High School is a magnet school specialising in visual, musical and performing arts and has about 400 students.