Police have identified the woman killed as a gunman opened fire in St. Louis’ Central Visual and Performing Arts High School on Monday as health teacher Jean Kuczka, 61, a wife and mother of five children and a grandmother of six.
The teenager who died in the rampage was sophomore Alexandria Bell, 15. KSDK reported that she “had an outgoing personality, loved to dance and was a member of her high school’s junior varsity dance team.”
The third death was the gunman, identified by officials as Orlando Harris, 19, who graduated from the school last year.
On her biography page for the school, Kuczka, who began teaching at the school in 2008, wrote, “I cannot imagine myself in any other career but teaching. In high school, I taught swimming lessons at the YMCA. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I believe that every child is a unique human being and deserves a chance to learn. I also believe that Health is the most awesome subject in school, because, without your health, you cannot live to your fullest potential. I love teaching Health and Physical Education and guiding students to make wise decisions. Respect is my favorite word!”
Kuczka was a championship field hockey player and member of the 1979 national championship team in college. She graduated from Southwest Missouri State University (now called Missouri State).
Andre Bell described his adopted daughter, Alexandria, as “joyful, wonderful and just a great person.” She would have been 16 in November, he told KSDX. Police have said she was already 16.
A dance teacher who asked not to be identified described her as a “spirited, gifted dancer,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “She was a beautiful young lady. She loved art.”
The gunman entered the school Monday morning carrying a long gun what police described as nearly a dozen 30-round magazines.
According to a separate St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, a survivor reported hearing the shooter say “he was tired of everybody” in the school.
USA Today reported that seven people “including male and female students ages 15 and 16, were in stable condition and had injuries ranging from a broken ankle to shrapnel and gunshot wounds.”
Multiple reports noted the security in place at the school, including a metal detector and seven security officers. As the Deseret News reported Monday, they were guarding doors to repel the gunman, who they saw trying to enter the building. Officials are not saying how he finally got in, but they did say all the doors were locked.
The Post-Dispatch said the active shooter call came in from at least one of those security officers at 9:11 a.m. and the shooter was dead 14 minutes later, according to Interim St. Louis Police Commissioner Michael Sack, “who said he was extremely proud” of the police handling of the attack.
“By 9:30 a.m., the area around the school was blocked off by police, ambulances and a SWAT van. Students and staff streamed from the buildings with hands in the air, filing up Hereford Street toward the Schnucks grocery store on Arsenal, where hundreds of evacuees gathered,” the article said.
Per USA Today, “The shooting is the 257th incident of gunfire on school grounds this calendar year, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. After school shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and in Washington, D.C., this is the third active shooter situation on school grounds this year.”