Orlando Harris was the gunman who shot and killed a health teacher and 16-year-old student and wounded seven other teens at Central VPA High School in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 24, 2022, police say. He was shot and killed by police at the scene, they said.
Harris, 19, was named in a press conference by St. Louis police. He graduated from the school in 2021 and had no criminal history, they said. He did have a history of mental health issues, they said.
Police were searching a home in the 7000 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in South St. Louis that related to Orlando Harris. He lived with family members, said St. Louis Police Chief Michael Sack.
A yearbook photo emerged of Orlando Harris:
Students jumped out of school windows and hid behind barricaded doors as the shooter made his way into the locked school and fired a barrage of gunshots.
Sack said in a press conference that officers “arrived within minutes of the call going out” and immediately made entry into the school. He said the first call came in at 9:11 a.m., and officers arrived on scene by 9:15 a.m.
The teacher who died was named as Jean Kirk Kuczka. A married mother of five and a grandmother who was a youth hockey star in college, Kuczka, 61, was remembered for her grace and kindness. You can read a tribute to her here. The student who died has been named as Alex Bell, 16. She was remembered as talented, beautiful and smart. Read a tribute to Bell here. Kuczka had locked her door but Harris shot into it, according to KSDK-TV.
“He did shoot Mrs. Kuczka, and I just closed my eyes,” student Alex Macias said to KSDK-TV. “I didn’t really want to see anything else. But then as I thought he was leaving, I opened my eyes to see him standing there making eye contact with me.
He said the surviving victims were a 16-year-old male student with a gunshot wound to the leg; a 16-year-old female student with a graze wound to the leg; a 15-year-old male student with gunshot wounds to both hands and the jaw; a 15-year-old male student who suffered a gunshot wound to an arm; a 15-year-old female student who had abrasions; a 16-year-old female student with a fractured ankle; and a 15-year-old male student with facial abrasions. All are in stable condition.
The shooter left behind a note describing his isolation.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. ‘You Are All Going to (Expletive) Die,’ Orlando Harris Said, According to a Teacher
Math teacher David Williams told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the school principal used a “code phrase” over the loudspeaker around 9 a.m. that “indicated a school shooter in the building.”
Williams then heard gunfire outside his classroom, and a window on a classroom door was “shot out,” the newspaper reported.
“You are all going to (expletive) die,” a man’s voice said, Williams told the Post-Dispatch.
According to Sack, at 9:23 a.m., officers located the suspect and began “engaging him in a gunfight.” He was then reported “down.” The building was then cleared with a sweep that included a bomb dog.
The school was locked when the gunman arrived, according to KSDK News.
A reporter asked whether the shooter got through the locked school door because security guards were not armed. The chief did not directly answer that question.
“Security staff did an outstanding job identifying the suspect’s efforts to enter and immediately notified other staff and ensured (police) were contacted,” Sack said.
A reporter asked whether Harris had a list of other school shootings in his vehicle. The chief said that information would come out when the investigative report is complete. “I know there is some evidence that was taken out,” he added.
2. Harris’s Family Asked Police to Confiscate His Gun
According to police, Harris’ family contacted police before the shooting to reveal he had a gun and his mother wanted it removed from the house. In a news conference, Sack said officers “in their response, handed it over to somebody else, an adult who was lawfully able to possess it.”
However, he had an AR-15 rifle and 600 rounds of ammo in the shooting, police said.
“They would search his room on occasion because they were concerned,” Sack said. “They were constantly in touch with the medical providers who were providing medical care for him.”
Police also said that his family had him committed to mental institutions in the past.
Raymond J. Parks, a dance teacher at the school, said the shooter was dressed all in black and pointed the gun at him but did not fire. He said he didn’t know why, according to the Post-Dispatch.
The shooter banged on a classroom door but couldn’t get inside, a student witness told the Post-Dispatch.
According to Sack, students who fled the school told arriving police officers that the shooter was armed with a long gun.
Officers heard gunfire and ran to it. They located the shooter and engaged the shooter with exchange of gunfire, Sack said. The suspect was struck and was later pronounced dead. No officers were injured.
“Our department responded to an active shooting incident this morning at Central VP School. A suspect was taken into custody,” St. Louis police tweeted on October 24, 2022, before the shooter was pronounced dead. “WE ARE ASKING THE PUBLIC TO PLEASE AVOID THE AREA OF S. KINGSHIGHWAY FROM SOUTHWEST TO ARSENAL UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. THIS INVESTIGATION IS ONGOING.”
3. Harris’ Gun Jammed & He Proclaimed He Was ‘Sick of This D*** School,’ a Student Witness Said
It might have been even worse, but the shooter’s gun jammed, student Taniya Gholston, 16, told The Post-Dispatch.
Orlando Harris said he was “sick of this d*** school,” she said.
Alex Fees of KSDK said in a live report that students she interviewed had heard Miles Davis music on the intercom.
Students had to jump from a third-story window. They heard some gunfire outside first before the shooter entered the school.
According to Sack, “there are suspicions there may be mental illness [the shooter] was experiencing,” and he said the motive was still under investigation.
4. Harris Left a Note that Started, ‘I Don’t Have Any Friends’
The police commissioner revealed that Harris left behind a note.
“I don’t have any friends. I don’t have any family. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’ve never had a social life. I’ve been an isolated loner my entire life,” it read.
A student, Adrianne Bolden, told KSDK about the frightening moments as the shooter moved through the school.
“We just thought it was a regular intruder drill, but then we started hearing sirens outside, and the teachers started getting scared,” he told the television station. The teacher crawled over and asked for help to move lockers in front of the classroom door so the shooter couldn’t get in. Then, they started hearing gunfire and glass breaking outside the door.
The students tried to jump out of the window, but there was concrete at the bottom. They eventually made it through the window.
The FBI is involved in the shooting investigation.
5. A Recording Captured Gunshots Inside the School
A recording captured gunshots going off inside the school, according to Fox 2 Now.
The recording captured the sounds as students hid in a classroom. The student who recorded the audio told Fox 2 St. Louis that another student ran in and said there was shooting. They went to the counselor’s office and put a bookshelf in front of the door. That’s when she heard gunshots and tried to find something to defend herself with, but the teacher told her to lie on the floor.
READ NEXT: Remembering Jean Kirk Kuczka.