CHARDON, Ohio — The prosecutor in the U.S. school shooting that killed three students says the suspect is “someone who’s not well.”
Prosecutor David Joyce told a news conference after 17-year-old T.J. Lane’s court hearing Tuesday that the suspect would probably face at least three counts of aggravated murder.
He says that Lane “chose his victims at random” and that “this is not about bullying. This is not about drugs.”
At the hearing, the boy was ordered held for at least the next 15 days. Prosecutors have until Thursday to charge him.
Lane, 17, admitted firing 10 shots with a .22-calibre pistol Monday morning at Chardon High School, county prosecutor David Joyce said at a juvenile court hearing.
The hearing came hours after the death toll rose to three, and as schoolmates and townspeople grappled with the tragedy and wondered what could have set the gunman off.
Lane’s face twitched lightly while the prosecutor recounted the attack, and he sniffled and half-closed his eyes as he walked out of the room with deputies.
Lane’s custodial grandfather and two aunts joined him in court; the women reached over and lightly embraced the grandfather as the hearing began.
Judge Timothy Grendell ordered the boy, who is considered a juvenile, held for at least the next 15 days. Prosecutors have until March 1 to charge him.
Shaken residents offered condolences and prayers to the families of those killed and wounded at 1,100-student high school in suburban Cleveland. All three of the dead were students, as are the two people wounded.
“We’re not just any old place, Chardon,” Chardon School Superintendent Joseph Bergant II said. “This is every place. As you’ve seen in the past, this can happen anywhere.”
A Cleveland hospital said Demetrius Hewlin, who had been in critical condition, died Tuesday morning. The news came shortly after Police Chief Tim McKenna said 17-year-old Russell King Jr. had died.
Another student, Daniel Parmertor, died hours after the shooting, which sent students screaming through the halls and led teachers to lock down their classrooms.
Both King and Parmertor were students at the Auburn Career Center, a vocational school, and were waiting in the Chardon High cafeteria for a bus for their daily 15-minute ride when they were shot.
The police chief would shed no light on a motive.
“I feel sorry not only for that family but all the families that are affected by this,” McKenna said. Characterizing himself as a “hometown boy,” he added: “Chardon will take care of Chardon.”
A student who saw the attack up close said it appeared that the gunman targeted a group of students sitting together and that one of the dead was shot while trying to duck under the cafeteria table.
Lane’s family is mourning “this terrible loss for their community,” attorney Robert Farinacci said
Lane did not go to Chardon High, instead attending nearby Lake Academy, which is for students with academic or behavioural problems.
Fifteen-year-old Danny Komertz, who witnessed the shooting, said Lane was known as an outcast who had apparently been bullied. But others disputed that.
“Even though he was quiet, he still had friends,” said Tyler Lillash, 16. “He was not bullied.”
Farinacci, representing Lane and his family, told WKYC-TV that Lane “pretty much sticks to himself but does have some friends and has never been in trouble over anything that we know about.”
Student Nate Mueller said that he was in the cafeteria where the victims were shot, and a bullet grazed his ear.
“My friends were crawling on the floor, and one of my friends was bent over the table, and he was shot,” Mueller told The Plain Dealer. “It was almost like a firecracker went off. I turned around and saw (Lane) standing with a gun and I saw him take a shot.”
Mueller told the Cleveland newspaper that Lane would wait at the school to take a bus to Lake Academy. Mueller said that King — one of those killed — had recently started dating Lane’s ex-girlfriend.
Frank Hall, an assistant high school football coach who students say chased the suspected gunman out of the cafeteria, told a Cleveland TV station that he couldn’t discuss what happened, but added: “I just want to say that I’m sorry for the families.”
“I wish I could have done more,” said Hall, whom students have hailed as a hero.