The 17-year-old suspect in a deadly shooting rampage at an Ohio high school was charged last week with killing three students, the first step in proceedings that could see him charged as an adult and facing the possibility of life without parole if convicted.
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, and hundreds of students and their parents gathered at the school when it reopened three days after the Feb. 27 shooting.
A prosecutor said the teenager, Thomas Lane, chose the victims randomly, and no motive had been determined. Mr. Lane admitted taking a .22-caliber pistol and a knife to the 1,100-student Chardon High School, outside of Cleveland, and firing 10 shots at a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table, prosecutor David Joyce said.
Children convicted of juvenile crimes in Ohio are typically behind bars only until they turn 21 in the most serious cases. But Mr. Joyce has already said he plans to charge Mr. Lane as an adult, meaning he could face life in prison without parole if convicted of similar adult charges.
Minors are not eligible for the death penalty in Ohio, whether they are convicted as juveniles or adults.
Authorities offered their own condolences in the wake of the incident 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 her family. The second injured teenager remained in serious condition at a suburban Cleveland hospital.
Both sides in the case are under a gag order imposed by the judge at the prosecutor’s request.
Meanwhile, area schools offered grief counseling to students, staff members, and others shocked by the rampage.
Demetrius Hewlin, 16; and Russell King Jr., 17; and Daniel Parmertor, 16, died from their injuries.
Fifteen-year-old Danny Komertz, who witnessed the shooting, said it appeared that the gunman singled out a group of students sitting together.
Mr. 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.
The shooting sent students screaming from the building in panic, and some of that chaos andfear was captured in 911 recordings released last week.
“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.”
Another caller, a male student, instantly identified the gunman as Mr. Lane, a student, and said he appeared to be shooting at random.
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.”
A version of this article appeared in the March 08, 2012 edition of Education Week as Three Secondary Students Die in Ohio School Shooting