CHARDON, Ohio (Reuters) - A student opened fire with a handgun in an Ohio high school cafeteria on Monday, killing one boy and wounding four other students before he was arrested after a teacher chased him from the building, police said.
The wounded students at the school near Cleveland were rushed to hospitals where 16-year-old Daniel Parmertor, who attended a nearby vocational school where he studied computer science, died at MetroHealth System in Cleveland.
Parmertor had been waiting in the school cafeteria for a bus when the gunman opened fire in an attack that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called an “unspeakable tragedy.”
“Danny was a bright young boy who had a bright future ahead of him,” Parmertor’s family said in a statement provided by MetroHealth. “The family is torn by this loss. We ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
Geauga County Sheriff’s department officials said the suspect was caught about half an hour after the shooting with the help of citizens and a police dog.
Police have not formally identified the suspect, who is a juvenile, but students, parents of students and local media identified him as T.J. Lane.
The shooting was the worst at a U.S. high school in 11 months and the worst in Ohio since late 2007, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Two of the four other victims were in critical condition at MetroHealth, according to Chardon Police Chief Tim McKenna.
A 17-year-old boy was in serious condition and an 18-year-old woman was stable at Hillcrest Hospital in suburban Cleveland, a spokeswoman there said.
The teacher who chased the gunman from the school was not identified. Chardon student Sofia Larkins said one teacher who was in the cafeteria at the time was a football coach, Frank Hall, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
The shooting took place about 7:30 a.m. as students were in the cafeteria studying and eating breakfast. 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 alleged shooter was a student at Lake Academy in Willoughby, which serves at-risk students. He was at Chardon’s cafeteria waiting for a bus. She said the student lived with his grandparents and sister.
Larkins, 14, was sitting with Lane’s sister when the shooting began. “She didn’t know anything,” Larkins said. “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 his sister away for questioning.
Fellow students described the suspect as “quiet.”
Emergency vehicles rushed to the high school after the shooting, where solemn-looking students streamed from the building to meet parents. The entire school district was closed for the day and will be closed on Tuesday.
“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 praised the actions of teachers, who had been through disaster training and acted quickly to protect the students.
Chardon, the seat of Geauga County, is a semi-rural, fairly affluent town about 35 miles (55 km) from Cleveland, with about 5,000 residents.
Some of the wounded students attend Auburn Career Academy, a vocational school with 700 students taken from 11 surrounding school districts, including Chardon. They were waiting in the cafeteria for the bus.
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 and Peter Cooney