At least two dead at St. Louis performing arts high school

Primbondh/ November 5, 2022/ the 7 arts

Updated at 1:10 p.m. Oct. 24 with more reaction and information from a briefing by police and elected officials

At least two people are dead and six others injured following a shooting at a south St. Louis high school Monday morning.

Interim St. Louis Police Chief Michael Sack said the suspect was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School.

The two people fatally injured were both female, one an adult and one a teenager. Sack said their identities would be made public after next of kin were notified.

The injuries suffered included gunshot wounds, shrapnel injuries and cardiac arrest.

“This is a heartbreaking day for all of us,” Sack said in a briefing around 11:15 a.m. “While on paper there are nine victims, everyone who survived here is going to take home trauma.”

The police department first received calls of shots fired at the magnet school, at 3125 S. Kingshighway, around 9:25 a.m.

Sack said the school was closed and the doors locked. He said the school’s security team immediately notified police when the suspect, a man in his 20s, attempted to gain entry, but he would not discuss how the suspect was able to get in.

Sack had high praise for the officers who responded, saying they entered the building without hesitation and ran toward gunfire, “which is our expectation,” to protect the students.

Sack also praised the teachers and staff at the school who helped the students escape. There were about 700 students in the building at the time.

“Thank God for the adults,” he said.

Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom said he believed the quick actions of both school security officers and the St. Louis police who responded saved lives.

SLPS said in a statement released around 12:30 p.m. that it had placed all 62 of its schools on a hard lockdown for the rest of the day and canceled all after-school activities.

A hard lockdown means limited movement in and out of the schools. Guardians wanting to pick up a student must call the school in advance and let administrators know when and who will be at pickup.

Sack said that he did not know the man’s connection to the school but that police had located his vehicle. The Force Investigative Unit is handling the investigation.

Sack said while police have stepped up patrols in the neighborhood where the shooting happened, he did not believe there were any other people involved or that the community was at risk.

St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said seven security officers were at the school. Sack said the shooting took place on the third floor.

Schools often have a code word they use for an active shooter situation. Yurisky Velazquez Vera, a 16-year-old sophomore, said she could tell by the tone that it was not a drill.

From her hiding spot in the back corner, she watched her teacher get shot. She was terrified that she was not going to see her parents or grandparents anymore.

“These things need to stop because, what’s going to happen to the future kids? What’s going to happen to them?” she said. “We deserve to go to school without having to worry that we’re going to get shot.”

Yurisky’s mother, Acucena Vera, said she wasn’t sure she would ever feel safe sending her daughter back to class.

“They have to keep going through this when they just want to come and learn,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush urged anyone who needed resources, especially for mental health, to call her office at 314-955-9980.

“It is OK not to be OK,” she said. “It is OK to not hold it in yourself.”

People needing connection to resources can also contact the 24/7 crisis line at 988 or call Behavioral Health Response anytime at 314-469-6644. Students dealing with trauma can call 314-819-8802, chat online at www.bhrstl.com or text BHEARD to 31658.

Sarah Lewis, a 18-year-old student, said she was in a classroom directly above where the shooting took place. She said she heard banging and shooting.

“I honestly felt like I wasn’t going to make it out of there,” she said.

Isabella Alamo, 16, said she saw a person at the bottom of the stairs as she was evacuating the building. She said she “tried to get people to go out faster” so they wouldn’t have to see the blood.

102422_HE_Central VPA High School students

Holly Edgell

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St. Louis Public Radio

Central VPA High School students gather outside after a shooter opened fire Monday in the school. Central Visual and Performing Arts High School is a magnet school in St. Louis for students gifted in the arts.

A visibly shaken Mayor Tishaura Jones said she had visited CVPA on the first day of school for students.

“We laughed, we sang, we danced. And now to be here for such a devastating and traumatic situation breaks my heart, especially as a mother,” she said.

Parents and guardians of students attending either CVPA or the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, which shares a building with CVPA, can reunite with their children at Gateway STEM, located at 5101 McRee Ave.

Other schools in the area heightened their own security in response to the shooting at CVPA. Confluence Academies, which operates five charter schools throughout the city, prohibited visitors in all its buildings.

“There is no threat to any Confluence schools or students but we are taking this step as a precaution,” the school said on Twitter.

Rep. Peter Meredith, D-St. Louis, has a niece who attends CVPA. The school is in his state House district. On Facebook, he wrote that he was praying for the students and their families.

On Twitter, Aderman Shane Cohn, who represents the 25th Ward, wrote: “Nobody should experience this at school. Nobody should experience this at work. Nobody should experience this at the movies. Nobody should experience this at a concert. Nobody should experience this at a grocery. Nobody should experience this.”

State Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, represents the district in which the schools are located. On Twitter, she asked constituents to pray for those affected by the violence.

In statements posted on Twitter, both of Missouri’s U.S. senators, Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, praised law enforcement for the quick response.

Central VPA High School students were sent to Gateway STEM, located at 5101 McRee Ave, for parent/guardian pickup after a school shooting.

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