Missouri high school gunman Orlando Harris' family had his gun taken away just months before deadly shooting
Warning: This article contains a recollection of crime and can be triggering to some readers. Discretion advised.
ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: The family of Orlando Harris, 19, who killed two and injured several others in a mass shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School on October 24, 2022, before he was gunned down by police eight minutes into the rampage, were aware of his mental health problems and did “everything that they possibly could have done” to help him. The family sought help from police to have a gun removed from their home months before the teen acquired an AR-15-style rifle for the shooting.
Sharing the details, St Louis Metropolitan Police Interim Chief Michael Sack during a news conference on Wednesday, October 26, said, "They contacted us, said that he had a firearm. The officers, in their response, handed it over to somebody else, an adult who was lawfully able to possess it." "The mother wanted it out of the house, so they facilitated it. The party had it. How he acquired it after that, we don’t know. We’re looking into it," he said, according to NBC.
The family had long been concerned about his mental health, the outlet reports. "The mother, the adult daughter, they worked with him [Harris]. They kind of had a system where they would track what might come in the mail, his interaction with others and try to make sure that he’s engaging people, that he feels loved," said Sack, who stressed by saying that the family did not only got him therapy but had him committed several times.
"Mental health is a difficult thing. It’s hard to tell when someone is violent and going to act out. I’ve got to give credit to the family — they made every effort that they felt they reasonably could. That’s why the mother is so heartbroken over the families that paid for his episode. Sometimes that's not enough," Sack narrated, as quoted by DailyMail.
Sack did not give out details on how Harris obtained AR-15 just months before the shooting or how he got it through those locked doors, security guards, and metal detectors at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School. Though he stated, "I understand that that's something everybody would like to know, but the reality is every building — a school, a business, a police headquarters — has weaknesses." When asked did the shooter break the glass to enter the building, Sack said, "He did have to force entry," reports NBC
Horrific mass shooting
As previously reported, Harris, a former student at Central VPA High School, stormed inside the school with an AR-15-style rifle and 600 rounds of ammunition. Student Alexis Bell, 16, was pronounced dead at the scene and a 61-year-old physical education teacher Jean Kuczka later died at the hospital. A TikTok video showed students hiding under desks while Harris went on a shooting spree.
Sack said that students were running out of the school when officers arrived at the scene. Harris, he said, had a "long gun". Seven security workers who were on the site acted quickly and notified other staff, and contacted the police, he said, as per a MEAWW report.
Student Taniya Gholston, 16, told the St Louis Post-Dispatch that Harris entered a classroom she was in and tried to kill her. "I was trying to run and I couldn't run. Me and him made eye contact but I made it out because his gun got jammed," she said.
Following this, police arrived and gunfire broke out between Harris and the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the gunman was killed.