In from CLEVELAND, a 14 year old student who opened fire at his high school, wounding four people before killing himself, had a history of mental problems and was known for cussing at teachers and bickering with students.
Asa H. Coon, who had been suspended for fighting, warned classmates of an attack, but none took him seriously.
“When he got suspended, he was like `I got something for you all,'” said student Frances Henderson, who said she often got into arguments with Coon. “I guess this is what he had.”
Police believe Coon targeted the two teachers he shot Wednesday. He also shot two students while others hid in closets and bathrooms or ran out of SuccessTech Academy alternative school. Students gathered outside, many in tears, hugging one another and talking on cell phones.
Parents were angry that firearms got into a school equipped with metal detectors that students said were intermittently used.
Coon’s troubles seemed to come to a tipping point this week when he was suspended for fighting outside with a classmate. Students said Monday’s fight was over God, Coon told his classmates he didn’t believe in God and instead worshipped rocker Marilyn Manson.
Armed with two revolvers Wednesday, Coon fired eight shots, Police Chief Michael McGrath said. Police found a duffel bag stocked with ammunition and three knives in a bathroom, but no suicide note, he said.
Math teacher David Kachadourian, who was treated at a hospital for a minor wound to the back of one shoulder, knew of no reason why Coon might target him. Coon was a student in his beginning algebra class.
“I never felt personally threatened or personally at risk,” Kachadourian said. “I had concerns about him, yes. He seemed like an angry young man. I did not fear for my own safety.”
Coon had mental health problems, spent time in two juvenile facilities and threatened to commit suicide while in a mental health facility, according to juvenile court records obtained by The Plain Dealer newspaper.
The Department of Children and Family Services was called to Coon’s home in 2000 because he had burns on his arms and scratches on his forehead, the newspaper said.
When he was 12, Coon was charged in juvenile court with domestic violence. His mother, Lori, had called police and told them her son slapped her and called her a vulgar name. She had been trying to intervene in a fight between Coon and his twin sister, The Plain Dealer reported.
He was also suspended from school last year for attempting to hurt a student, the newspaper said.
“He used to cuss all the teachers out,” said Henderson, 14.
Coon, who was white, stood out in the predominantly black school for dressing in a goth style, wearing a black trench coat, black boots, a dog collar and chains, she said.
Henderson, who is black, she said she didn’t believe race played a role in the shootings.
“He’s crazy. He threatened to blow up our school. He threatened to stab everybody,” said Doneisha LeVert, 14. “We didn’t think nothing of it.”
People at Coon’s home late Wednesday declined to comment.
All classes in the city school district were canceled Thursday, and school officials said counseling would be available for students at recreation centers throughout Cleveland.
Witnesses said the shooter moved through SuccessTech, a converted downtown office building, working his way up through the first two floors of administrative offices to the third floor of classrooms. He was wearing a Manson shirt, black jeans and black painted finger nails, police said.
Charles Blackwell, president of SuccessTech’s student/parent organization, said he did not know how Coon got into the building.
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.
The first person shot, 14 year old Michael Peek, had punched Coon in the face right before the shootings began, student Rasheem Smith said.
Coon “came out of the bathroom and bumped Mike and he [Mike] punched him in his face. Mike started walking. He shot Mike in the side,” said Smith, 15.
Darnell Rodgers, 18, was walking up to another floor when the stairway suddenly became flooded with students.
“They were screaming, and they were saying, `Oh my God! Oh my God!’ I knew something was wrong, but thought that it was probably just a fight, so I just kept going,” Rodgers said.
He realized he had been shot when he felt his arm burning.
Rodgers was released from a hospital after treatment for a graze wound to his right elbow. He told NBC’s “Today” on Thursday that he didn’t believe he was targeted and that the shooter didn’t speak as he fired.
“He just fired the gun,” Rodgers said. “He didn’t say anything.”
The other student shot was taken to a children’s hospital, which would not release the student’s condition.
Michael Grassie, a 42 year old history teacher, was hospitalized in fair condition late Wednesday after about two hours of surgery. The hospital would not disclose the nature of the surgery.
SuccessTech Academy, with about 240 students, is an alternative high school in the public school district that stresses technology and entrepreneurship.
Thank you Associated Press writers James Hannah, Terry Kinney, M.R. Kropko, John Seewer and Thomas J. Sheeran and Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed to this report.
Baby Boomers…there were no metal detectors when I went to school…the bad boys were the ones smoking or skipping classes. Guys had pocket knives but never stabbed any one…
It sounds like this young man was reaching out asking for help but never got it. Watch your children and grandchildren…
As John Lennon would say “LOVE is the answer.”
I am so glad that I did not have to grow up with violence at school!
~The Baby Boomer Queen~