Mother of St. Louis school shooter asked authorities to remove gun used in shooting from home prior to killings
The suspect's mother found the gun in their home and wanted it removed days prior, but officers determined the shooter was lawfully permitted to have the firearm
By Annika Merrilees
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS — The gun Orlando Harris used to kill two people at his former high school Monday was the same AR-15-style rifle his family had asked authorities for help removing from him nine days earlier, police said Wednesday evening.
St. Louis police responded Oct. 15 to a domestic disturbance call at Harris' home. His mother had found a gun in the house and wanted it removed. Officers determined that Harris was lawfully permitted to have the firearm.
A third person, known to the family, was contacted and took the rifle so it would be out of the home, police said.
"While it is not yet clear when or how the suspect came to be in possession of the firearm after this incident, we can confirm that the firearm involved in this incident is the firearm used in the shooting Monday," police said in a statement Wednesday evening.
In the months leading up to the attack at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, Harris' family tried to get him mental health care.
Interim St. Louis police Chief Michael Sack said Harris' family is cooperating with the investigation.
Authorities did not give specifics about Harris' past behavior but said his family had sought help for him and that he had been "committed" at some point. They checked his mail and searched his room.
"They were constantly in touch with the medical providers," said Sack at a Wednesday news conference. "They made every effort they felt that they reasonably could. I think that's why the mother is so heartbroken over the families that paid" for his actions.
The serial number on the gun Harris used on Monday has been given to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace, Sack said. He noted that it is difficult to track a gun's ownership if it has been sold from person to person.
Authorities say Harris, 19, busted a window out of a door at the two-school campus at Arsenal Street and South Kingshighway, near Tower Grove Park.
He shot and killed 61-year-old Jean Kuczka, a mother of five who taught health and physical education; and sophomore Alexzandria Bell, 15, who loved art and dance.
Four other students were shot and injured — two in the leg, one in the arm, and one in the hands and jaw. Two more students suffered abrasions, and a girl fractured her ankle. Sack said one police officer had cuts on his arm from going through a window.
Police said on Wednesday that Harris acted alone in the shooting.
Since Monday, authorities have seen an increase in hoax threats made against area schools, a common pattern after a such incidents, said FBI Special Agent Jay Greenberg. Making hoax threats is illegal, he said, and they tend to be easy to investigate. Officers will make visits to people's homes to make sure the threats are not real.
Police did not believe any of the threats were credible, but they are taking a toll nonetheless. Police are placing additional armed officers in area schools, taxing "already strained police resources," Greenberg said. It means that children — still trying to process Monday's events — are seeing an increased armed presence in their schools.
"It is increasing the trauma that all of our students and teachers are experiencing," Greenberg said.
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