St. Louis Hit By Tragedy

By: Trisha Brahmachari —Editor-in-Chief

St. Louis was struck by terror on October 25, 2022 as a former student entered Central Visual and Performing Arts High School with an AR-15-style rifle and over 600 rounds of ammunition. 

Gunman, Orlando Harris, graduated from Central Visual and Performing Arts High School just last year. After a gunfight with authorities, Harris was taken into custody and later pronounced dead. Harris did not have any criminal history, yet shot and killed both Alexandria Bell, 15, and Jean Kuczka, 61, injuring several others as well. 

“When he entered, it was out … there was no mystery about what was going to happen… He had it out and entered in an aggressive, violent manner,” said St. Louis police Commissioner Michael Sack. 

“Here is a safe place where kids go to grow, to learn, to develop, and something like this happens — it’s just heartbreaking,” he added. 

Students will attend online classes until the school reopens, yet it could take up to two months for the school to be ready for in-person classes. The district plans to add gun safety to its curriculum. “The gun safety initiative, quite frankly, was a plan put together to try to address the kind of issues that happen outside of our school district, outside of our school buildings, in terms of the number of students who have been shot in the city of St. Louis, and that die, quite frankly, as a result of incidents that happened outside of the school environment,” said St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams. 

After the country expressed widespread disappointment in the delayed response in confronting school shooters in Uvalde, Texas as well as Parkland, Florida, St. Louis police Commissioner Michael Sack commented on the swiftness of law enforcement in response to the shooting. “The school was closed and the doors were locked… The security staff did an outstanding job identifying the suspect’s efforts to enter, and immediately notified other staff and ensured that we were contacted,” said Sack.

“Police responded quite heavily and quite quickly,” added Lori Willis, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis Public Schools.

Teacher Kristie Faulstich grappled with how to protect her kids in the moment of terror.  “I wasn’t going to say, ‘Nobody is going to hurt you,’ because that’s a promise I couldn’t make,” she said. 

“You get into this head space: I will do whatever it takes, and I will protect you however I have to. I know that’s how the teachers were in this moment. Those are our kids,” she added. 

Faulstich also commented on her student’s response to experiencing such a threat to their safety. “I absolutely commend my students for their response … Even in the moments when they were hearing gunfire going on all around they stood quiet and I know they did it to keep each other safe,” said Faulstich. 

Investigators found a note in Harris’ car that he drove to the school. The note entailed Harris’ potential motive for committing such a crime. “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,” the note said, according to Sack.

“This was the perfect storm for a mass shooter,” said Sack. 

“It’s a nightmare. I am so upset. I need somebody – police, community folks, somebody – to make this make sense,” said Bell’s father.

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