CHARDON, Ohio — A teenager described as a bullied outcast at his suburban Cleveland high school opened fire in the cafeteria Monday morning, killing one student and wounding four others before being caught a short distance away, authorities said.
A student who witnessed the attack from just a few feet (meters) away said it appeared the gunman was targeting a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table and that the one who was killed was trying to duck under the table.
Panicked students screamed and ran through the halls after gunfire broke out at the start of the school day at 1,100-student Chardon High, about 30 miles (48 kilometres) from Cleveland.
The suspect, whose name was not released, was arrested near his car a half-mile away, the FBI said. He was not immediately charged.
FBI officials would not comment on a motive. But 15-year-old Danny Komertz, who witnessed the shooting, said the gunman was known as an outcast who had apparently been bullied.
“I looked up and this kid was pointing a gun about 10 feet away from me to a group of four kids sitting at a table,” Komertz said. He said the gunman fired two shots quickly, and students scrambled for safety. One of them “was kind of like hiding, trying to get underneath the table, trying to hide, protecting his face.”
Five students were taken to Cleveland-area hospitals, and one later died, officials said. At least one other victim, a 17-year-old boy, was listed in serious condition.
Parents thronged the streets around the school as they heard from students via text message and cellphone long before official word came of the attack.
By midday, officers investigating the shooting blocked off a road in a heavily wooded area several miles (kilometres) from the school. Federal agents patrolled the muddy driveway leading to several spacious homes and ponds, while other officers walked a snowy hillside. It wasn’t clear what they were looking for. A police dog was brought in.
Heather Ziska, 17, said she was in the cafeteria when she and other students heard popping noises in the hall. She said she saw a boy she recognized as a fellow student come into the cafeteria and start shooting.
She said she and several others immediately ran outside, while other friends ran into a middle school and others locked themselves in a teachers’ lounge.
“Everybody just started running,” said 17-year-old Megan Hennessy, who was in class when she heard loud noises. “Everyone was running and screaming down the hallway.”
Rebecca Moser, 17, had just settled into her chemistry class when the school went into lockdown. The class of about 25 students ducked behind the lab tables at the back of the classroom, uncertain whether it was a drill.
Text messages started flying inside and outside the school, spreading information about what was happening and what friends and family were hearing outside the building.
“We all have cellphones, so people were constantly giving people updates — about what was going on, who the victims were, how they were doing,” Moser said.
Anxious parents of high school students were told to go to an elementary school to pick up their children.
Chardon is a town of about 5,100 people.