CINCINNATI — An honors student at an all-male Catholic high school tried to commit suicide in his first-period classroom Monday, police said, critically wounding himself with a gunshot and sending other students scrambling for cover.
La Salle High School west of Cincinnati was locked down until after police arrived and determined there was no threat to other students or staff. A University of Cincinnati Medical Center spokeswoman reported the student’s condition as critical Monday afternoon, about six hours after the shooting.
Green Township Police Chief Bart West described the weapon as a semi-automatic handgun. He said police were investigating how the student obtained the gun and how he brought it into the school.
West said there were 22 other students in the classroom, and the episode was over “in a matter of seconds” with no other students injured or apparently threatened. Several students called 911 dispatchers.
“There’s a guy with a gun,” said a student who called on his cellphone from inside a nearby locked room. “We just need police here ….”
“We’re huddled in a corner,” another student said in a call.
There was conflicting information on precisely what time the shooting took place, but school officials said it was during the first class period of the day.
Hospital spokeswoman Diana Maria Lara released a statement from the boy’s parents thanking people for their thoughts and prayers while asking for privacy “so that we can do what we need to for our son and family.” They praised the hospital medical staff’s “heroic efforts.”
West said the student apparently was trying to kill himself, but he had no information on why. School officials described him as an honors student and didn’t know of any threats to school or any other students. The Hamilton County sheriff’s office said it would search the building with dogs as a precaution against explosives, but said they had no indication there were any other weapons.
Students, some in tears, gathered in the school gym after the shooting. The school’s website said all students were safe, and were being released to parents “due to an attempted suicide involving one student.” Grief counselors from the Roman Catholic archdiocese joined the school’s counselors in meeting with students and staff, and Monday evening school activities were canceled.
School officials said classes would resume Tuesday, with the school day beginning in a prayer service.
“We just ask that you pray for him and his family,” said Greg Tankersley, La Salle’s director of community development. “It’s a tragic situation for this young man.”
He said the youth was “fighting for his life.”
A priest went to the hospital where the student was taken. Tankersley said the boy’s parents asked that his name not be released, and said he wouldn’t release other information about the student other than to say he had a strong academic and community service record.
In the aftermath of last year’s fatal shootings of three students in Chardon High School in northeast Ohio and December’s Sandy Hook Elementary shooting rampage in Connecticut, most schools have taken steps to increase security. In Ohio, that’s included taking shooting prevention and response training courses offered by the state attorney general and updating safety procedures with police.
“We always have concerns about school security,” West said, but he added that La Salle “did an excellent job” in responding Monday. He said township police had met recently with school officials to review their safety plan.
“We’re going to go back and look at everything,” Tankersley replied when asked at a news conference about a gun getting into the school. But he added that Monday’s top priority was the condition of the wounded student and the well-being of the others.