'It was terror': placid Ohio town reels from school shootings
Daniel Parmertor, 16, died from his wounds
T.J. Lane, named by students as the shooter
A distraught Ava Polaski, a sophomore, leaves school grounds Monday with her mother, Misty Polaski, following the school shooting in Chardon, Ohio.
Chardon High School students file out of the school, at rear, for pickup by their parents after Monday's shooting in Chardon, Ohio.
At left, residents gather to pray for the the shooting victims at the Chardon Assembly of God church Monday evening.
The flag flies at half-staff outside the Geauga County, Ohio, Courthouse in Chardon Monday evening.
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CHARDON, Ohio -- A rural Ohio town fell into mourning Monday after a teenage boy opened fire in his high school cafeteria, killing at least two students and seriously injuring three others in the usually peaceful town.
Shortly after 7:30 a.m., while students were sitting in a study hall and some were waiting for buses to take them from Chardon High School about 30 minutes outside of Cleveland to a nearby vocational school, a quiet teenage boy, identified by fellow students as T.J. Lane, pulled out a gun and fired the first of at least six shots.
Some students scrambled. Others ducked. Those in nearby classrooms were told, as they had been in drills before, to remain quiet and shut off the lights.
Monday night, many were left with one question: How does it get so bad that kids are taking lives?
A juvenile was in police custody Monday night, but police did not release his name.
T.J.'s peers described him as a quiet boy who stayed to himself, except for the disturbing rants he had recently posted online. The Associated Press reported that he was a student at Lake Academy, a school for at-risk students.
Nate Mueller, a junior at Chardon High School, said he was sitting at his usual table in the cafeteria with several friends when he saw T.J., who was about three feet from him, pull out a gun and fire a shot.
He said he watched as the boy he identifed as T.J. fired a second shot, then turned away to flee and was grazed in the right ear by a bullet.
He ran out of the building and called 911.
"It was terror," he said. "[He] was dead silent the entire time. He didn't say anything the entire time."
Across the hallway, other students heard shots but knew little else. Zach Weiland, a 16-year-old sophomore, said his math teacher, Joe Ricci, pulled an injured student, Nick Walczak, into their classroom and held pressure on his shoulder wounds until medics arrived moments later.
Daniel Parmertor, 16, died Monday morning from his wounds in the MetroHealth trauma center in Cleveland. Witnesses identified the other hospitalized students as Russell King, Demetrius Hewlin and Joy Rickers.
Early this morning, word came that a second student, Russell King Jr., 17, has died.
Daniel's family issued a statement through a hospital spokeswoman, saying, "We are shocked by this senseless tragedy. Danny was a bright young boy who had a bright future ahead of him. The family is torn by this loss."
Fellow students described him as a wrestler who got along well with most of the other students.
Law enforcement and hospital officials did not release the individual students' conditions Monday evening but said two of the boys were listed in critical condition at MetroHealth and another boy was in serious condition at nearby Hillcrest Hospital, where Joy was in stable condition.
Zach said he and his friends were stuck in their classroom on lockdown for about an hour before the school released them to their homes.
T.J. was loud in middle school and when he matriculated into high school, he grew quiet and began to retreat from others, several students said. A few described him as a "goth." Some said they remembered him being bullied or teased in middle school, but few recalled recent problems.
Just before the New Year, while listed as staying in Oklahoma, T.J. posted a long, winding letter that spoke of a "time of repent, The Renaissance," a lonely man who sits in a lonely town and "Lucifer's Laboratory."
"Feel death, not just mocking you," he wrote. "Not just stalking you but inside of you. Wriggle and writhe. Feel smaller beneath my might. Seizure in the Pestilence that is my scythe. Die, all of you."
Law enforcement and Chardon school officials did not discuss the shooter, whom they did not identify Monday because he is younger than 18 and because they were still working on their investigation.
"This investigation is going to be very long," Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland said.
Across the town, residents praised local police for their swift response. Police received the first of many calls for the shooting at 7:38 a.m. By the time county sheriff's deputies and Chardon police arrived, two teachers, identified in online postings as Frank Hall and Mr. Ricci, had helped to chase the shooter out of the school and tend to wounded students.
Deputies brought in a K-9 unit that helped them track the shooter on foot. They arrested him about 11/2 miles from the school 30 or 45 minutes after the shootings with help from some residents who spotted the boy, said sheriff's Lt. John Hiscox.
For several years, authorities had been running disaster drills to prepare them for the possibility of a school shooting. Sheriff McClelland said that "helped to lessen the tragedy."
Still, some Chardon residents wondered if perhaps they had missed some signs that might have clued them in to the shooter's behavior.
"How does it get this bad before kids are taking lives?" asked 21-year-old Tabitha Johnson, who has two siblings who attend the high school. "Chardon was known for nothing but snow, and now we know there are broken and hurting people here."
Throughout Chardon and in neighboring Painesville, where some of the injured students also attended classes, community members gathered to hold impromptu vigils Monday night. An additional vigil, organized by the school district, is scheduled for tonight.
Chardon superintendent Joe Bergant announced that all schools will be closed today so that students and staff members can have time to reflect. "I want people to stay home tomorrow to reflect on their families, and if you haven't hugged or kissed your kid ... do."
First Published February 28, 2012 12:16 am