CHARDON, Ohio - A teenager opened fire in the cafeteria at a suburban Cleveland high school yesterday, killing one student and wounding four others before he was chased from the building by a teacher and captured a short distance away, authorities said.
A student who saw the attack said it appeared the gunman targeted a group of students sitting together and that the one who was killed was gunned down while trying to duck under the cafeteria table.
FBI officials would not comment on a motive. Police Chief Tim McKenna said authorities “have a lot of homework to do yet’’ in their investigation of the shooting, which sent students screaming through the halls at the start of the school day at 1,100-student Chardon High.
The FBI said the suspect, who was not identified because he is a juvenile, was arrested near his car a half-mile from Chardon. However, The New York Times reported that the family of the suspect made his identity public last night when they issued a statement through a lawyer on WKYC-TV in Cleveland. In the statement, the family of T.J. Lane said they were devastated by the news and they wanted “to extend their heartfelt and sincere condolences’’ to the victims and their families.
Lane is a sophomore at Lake Academy, an alternative school in Willoughby for troubled students in grades 7 through 12. “By all accounts, T.J. is a fairly quiet and a good kid,’’ said Robert N. Farinacci, the Lanes’ lawyer, who noted that the suspect had never been in trouble before, the Times reported.
During the shooting, teachers locked down their classrooms as they had been trained to do during drills, and students took cover as they waited for the all-clear in this town of 5,100 people 30 miles from Cleveland. One teacher was said to have dragged a wounded student into his classroom for protection. Another chased the gunman out of the building, police said.
Danny Komertz, 15, who witnessed the shooting, said the gunman was known as an outcast who had apparently been bullied. But other students disputed that.
“Even though he was quiet, he still had friends,’’ said Tyler Lillash, 16. “He was not bullied.’’
Long before official word came of the attack, parents learned of the bloodshed from students via text message and cellphone and thronged the streets around the school, anxiously awaiting word on their children.
Two of the wounded were listed in critical condition, and another was in serious condition.
“I looked up and this kid was pointing a gun about 10 feet away from me to a group of four kids sitting at a table,’’ Komertz said. He said the gunman fired two shots quickly, and students scrambled for safety. One of them was “trying to get underneath the table, trying to hide, protecting his face.’’
The slain student, Daniel Parmertor, an aspiring computer repairman, was waiting in the cafeteria for the bus for his daily 15-minute ride to a vocational school. His teacher at the Auburn Career School had no idea why Parmertor, “a very good young man, very quiet,’’ would have been targeted, said Auburn Superintendent Maggie Lynch.
Teacher Joe Ricci had just begun class when he heard shots and slammed the door to his classroom, yelling, “Lock-down!’’ to students, according to Karli Sensibello, a student whose sister was in Ricci’s classroom.
A few minutes later, Ricci heard a student moaning outside, opened the door, and pulled in student Nick Walczak who had been shot several times, Sensibello said in an e-mail. Ricci comforted Walczak and let him use his cellphone to call his girlfriend and parents, Sensibello said. She said her sister was too upset to talk.
Heather Ziska, 17, said she was in the cafeteria when she saw a boy she recognized as a student come into the cafeteria and start shooting. She said she and several others immediately ran outside, while some students ran into a middle school and others locked themselves in a teachers’ lounge.
Text messages started flying inside and outside the school, spreading information about what was happening and what friends and family were hearing outside the building.
The school had no metal detectors, but current and past students said it had frequent security drills in case of a shooting.
Joe Bergant, Chardon school superintendent, said school was canceled today and grief counselors would be available to students and families.