A high school student said Thursday that attack by his former classmate, who had killed and wounded four people and shot himself, could be prevented, for the gunmen had warned their principal about his bloody plans.
The student, Rasheem Smith, said on CBS' television's "Early Show" that despite the warnings about Asa H. Coon, the student who opened fire Wednesday, principal Johneita Durant told them she was too busy.
"I told my friends in the class that he had a gun and stuff," said Smith, 15. "He was talking about doing it last week. I don't know why they didn't say nothing.
"We talked to the principal. She would try to get us all in the office, but it would always be too busy for it to happen," Smith said. Responding on the show, schools CEO Eugene Sanders said the district would investigate.
The Associated Press made several attempts to reach Durant at SuccessTech Academy after the shootings, but she did not make herself available for comment.
Armed with two revolvers, Coon opened fire at the alternative school, wounding two students and two teachers. He had a history of mental problems and was known for cursing at teachers and bickering with students.
Police found a duffel bag stocked with ammunition and three knives in a bathroom, but no suicide note, Police Chief Michael McGrath said.
People at Coon's home late Wednesday declined to comment.
The incident was the latest in a rash of school shootings in the United States. In April, a South Korean student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech university before killing himself in what was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
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.
Coon, who was suspended Monday for fighting with a classmate and was under suspension at the time of the shootings, had 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."
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. The clothing was similar to that worn by two students who opened fire in Colorado's Columbine High School in April 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves.
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."
Police believe Coon, wearing a Marilyn Manson shirt, black jeans and black nail polish, targeted the two teachers he shot Wednesday.
Coon's troubles seemed to come to a breaking point this week. Students said Monday's fight was over God - Coon told his classmates he did not believe in God and instead worshipped rocker Marilyn Manson.
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.
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.
The first person shot, 14-year-old Michael Peek, had punched Coon in the face right before the shootings began, 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.
Darnell Rodgers, 18, said he realized he had been shot when he felt his arm burning.
Rodgers was treated for a graze wound to his right elbow. He told NBC's "Today" on Thursday he did not believe he was targeted.
"He just fired the gun," Rodgers said. "He didn't say anything."
Michael Grassie, a 42-year-old history teacher, was hospitalized in fair condition late Wednesday after about 90 minutes of surgery.
Math teacher David Kachadourian, who was treated for a minor wound to the back of one shoulder, knew of no reason why Coon would target him.
"I never felt personally threatened or personally at risk," said Kachadourian, who had Coon is his beginning algebra class. "I had concerns about him, yes. He seemed like an angry young man. I did not fear for my own safety."
SuccessTech Academy, with about 240 students, is an alternative high school in the public school district that stresses technology and entrepreneurship.
In a weary world of endless US military interventions, sanctions, trade tariffs and chaos, let’s pause and take stock of the shining house on the hill