Suspended student opens fire at Cleveland school
By: By JOE MILICIA Associated Press Writer
A fellow student at SuccessTech Academy alternative school said the shooter, who was suspended for fighting two days earlier, had made threats in front of students and teachers last week.
“He’s crazy. He threatened to blow up our school. He threatened to stab everybody,” Doneisha LeVert said. “We didn’t think nothing of it.”
Police Chief Michael McGrath said it appeared that the shooter used two weapons, but added that the coroner’s office will need to finish its work to confirm that. Parents were angry that firearms got into a school equipped with metal detectors.
Mayor Frank Jackson said two adults and three teens were injured, including a 14-year-old girl who fell and hurt her knee while running out of the school.
Witnesses said the black-clad shooter moved through the converted five-story downtown office building, working his way up through the first two floors of administrative offices to the third floor of classrooms.
Antonio Deberry, 17, said he and his classmates hid under laboratory tables and watched the shooter move down the hallway. “I saw him walking past. He didn’t see us, we saw him.” Deberry said the shooter swore and shot several times.
The shooter was identified by an official close to the investigation as Asa H. Coon. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because Coon’s family was being notified.
LeVert said she hid in a closet with two other students after she heard a “Code Blue” alert over the loudspeaker. She said she heard about 10 shots.
Ronnell Jackson, 15, said he saw the shooter running down a school hallway.
“He was about to shoot me, but I got out just in time,” he said. “He was aiming at me I got out just in time.”
Coon had been suspended since Monday for fighting, said Charles Blackwell, president of SuccessTech’s student-parent organization. He did not know how Coon got into the building Wednesday.
LeVert, the student, said Coon was a “gothic” who usually wore a trench coat, black boots and a dog collar.
Blackwell said there was a security guard on the first floor, but that the position of another guard on the third floor had been eliminated sometime earlier.
Students stood outside the building, many in tears, hugging each other and on cell phones. Others shouted at reporters with TV cameras to leave them alone. Family members also stood outside, anxiously waiting for their children to be released.
Tammy Mundy, 38, who has a son and daughter at the school, told The Plain Dealer that her daughter called when the shooting started.
“She said, ’Mom they’re shooting in here, kids are running out, I’m hiding in the closet,”’ Mundy told the newspaper.
Then she called her 18-year-old son, Darnell Rodgers, on his cell phone, and he told her he had been shot in the arm.
“He said, ’Mom, I got shot,”’ Mundy told the newspaper.
A hospital spokeswoman said Rodgers was listed in stable condition. David Kachadourian, 57, was in good condition, and a 42-year-old man was in surgery and his condition unavailable. The other two injured teens were taken to a children’s hospital, which would not release their names, ages or conditions.
Deberry’s mother, Lakisha Deberry, said she was upset that metal detectors at the school were not always in use.
“You never know what’s going on in someone’s mind,” said Deberry, who said she was required to go through a metal detector and present an identification card whenever she wanted to drop off something at school for her children.
The shooting occurred across the street from the FBI office in downtown Cleveland, and students were being sent to the FBI site.
All schools in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District were canceled today, said Eugene Sanders, chief executive officer of the district. Counseling was available today for students at recreation centers throughout the city, Sanders said.
SuccessTech Academy is an alternative high school in the Cleveland city school district that emphasizes technology and entrepreneurship.
It is housed on several floors of the district’s downtown Cleveland Lakeside Avenue administration building.
“It’s a shining beacon for the Cleveland Metropolitan School System,” said John Zitzner, founder and president of E City Cleveland, a nonprofit group aimed at teaching business skills to inner-city teens. “It’s orderly, it’s disciplined, it’s calm, it’s focused.”
The school has about 240 mainly black students with a small number of white and Hispanic students.
The school, opened five years ago, ranks in the middle of the state’s ratings for student performance. Its graduation rate is 94 percent, well above the district’s rate of 55 percent.
Associated Press Writers James Hannah, Terry Kinney, Thomas J. Sheeran and Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed to this report.
Published in The Messenger on 10.11.07