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Teen appears in court after Ohio school shooting

- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

 

CHARDON, Ohio (AP) — The 17-year-old suspect in a deadly shooting rampage at an Ohio high school appeared briefly in juvenile court as residents of the shaken community offered sympathy and support for families and friends of the three students who were killed and two who were wounded.

A prosecutor described suspect T.J. Lane as "someone who's not well" and said the teen didn't know the victims but chose them randomly.

Lane admitted taking a .22-caliber pistol and a knife to the 1,100-student Chardon High School and firing 10 shots at a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table Monday morning, prosecutor David Joyce said.

Authorities offered their own condolences Tuesday and shared a nugget of welcome news, announcing that an 18-year-old girl who was hurt in the shootings had been released from the hospital and was home with family. The second injured teen remained in serious condition at a suburban Cleveland hospital.

Those trying to understand what prompted the shootings got few answers from the court hearing, which came hours after the death toll rose to three.

Lane, a thin young man described by other students as extremely quiet, spoke little in court, where a judge ordered him held for at least 15 days.

Lane's grandfather, who has custody of the teenager, and two aunts joined him in court. The women lightly embraced the older man as the hearing began.

Prosecutors have until Thursday to bring charges and are expected to ask that Lane be tried as an adult. He will probably be charged with three counts of aggravated murder and other offenses, Joyce said.

The prosecutor appeared to rule out rumors and speculation that the young gunman lashed out after being bullied or that the shooting had something to do with drug-dealing.

"This is not about bullying. This is not about drugs," Joyce said. "This is someone who's not well, and I'm sure in our court case we'll prove that to all of your desires and we'll make sure justice is done here in this county."

Joyce would not elaborate. Both sides in the case are under a gag order imposed by the judge at the prosecutor's request.

The judge also barred media outlets from taking photos of the faces of the suspect and some of his relatives. The Associated Press transmitted photos and video of Lane that were shot before the hearing. The AP and at least one other media outlet, the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, plan to challenge the judge's order Wednesday.

Meanwhile, area schools offered grief counseling to students, staff and others shocked by the rampage.

"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, proof of what we had yesterday."

Authorities said Tuesday that Demetrius Hewlin, 16, and Russell King Jr., 17, had died from their injuries. Daniel Parmertor, 16, died shortly after the shooting.

Hewlin attended Chardon High. King and Parmertor were students at the Auburn Career Center, a vocational school, and were waiting in the Chardon High cafeteria for their daily bus when they were shot.

Lane's family is mourning "this terrible loss for their community," Lane's attorney, Robert Farinacci, said in a statement.

Fifteen-year-old Danny Komertz, who witnessed the shooting, said it appeared that the gunman singled out a group of students sitting together. He said Lane was known as an outcast who had apparently been bullied. But other students disputed that.

Farinacci 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."

Lane did not attend Chardon High but waited there for the bus to Lake Academy, a school for students with academic or behavioral problems. Authorities would not say how and why he ended up at Lake Academy.

Student Nate Mueller said he was at the cafeteria table where the victims were shot, and a bullet grazed his ear. Mueller told The Plain Dealer that King — one of those killed — had recently started dating Lane's ex-girlfriend.

Lane "was silent the whole time," Mueller said. "That's what made it so random."

Kala Day, 18, said she rode the morning school bus with Lane and knew the victims.

"He always sat by himself and, like, looked out the window. So I sat with him a few times, because I felt bad for the kid," she said. "He didn't talk. He just stared out the window."

The shooting sent students screaming from the building in panic, and some of that chaos and fear was captured in 911 recordings released Tuesday.

"We just had a shooting at our school. We need to get out of here. Oh, my god," one crying female caller told a dispatcher.

"Everyone's running away," the caller added.

Another caller, a male student, instantly identified the gunman as Thomas Lane, a student, and said he appeared to be shooting at random.

"What was his beef with these kids? Do we know?" the dispatcher asked.

"I have no idea," he said, adding: "He's very quiet and he doesn't really talk to anyone."

Frank Hall, an assistant high school football coach who has been hailed as a hero by students who say he chased the gunman out of the cafeteria, told a Cleveland TV station that he couldn't discuss what happened, but added: "I wish I could have done more."

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AP writers Dan Sewell in Cincinnati; Julie Carr Smyth, Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Ann Sanner in Columbus; and photographer Mark Duncan in Chardon contributed to this report.

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