Two Troubled Teens and The People Who Failed Them
“It can happen anywhere,” said Darnell Rodgers, a senior at Cleveland, Ohio’s SuccessTech Academy, after he was shot in the elbow by 14-year-old Asa Coon while at school yesterday. Coon shot two students and two teachers, but the only fatality was Coon, who shot himself in the head and committed suicide in a classroom. A .22-caliber revolver, a .38-caliber revolver, three knives and a box of ammunition were found near his body. He had worn an empty gun holster on his ankle to school on many previous occasions. What we are wondering is, why did no one question his gun holster apparel? Wouldn’t that be a major tip-off that something was amiss in the mind of Asa Coon? No students, teachers or parents noticed this unusual attire?
As it turns out, there were many warning signs. In addition to Coon’s general history of violence and threats to commit suicide, we learn that:
Classmate Demar Tabb, 15, had heard Coon’s threats. “I thought he was just kidding.” Tabb said. “I probably should have said something, but I didn’t think anything would actually happen.”
Rasheem Smith, a 15-year-old sophomore at SuccessTech, saw Coon changing clothes in a fourth-floor bathroom, just before the shooting rampage began. He left when he saw Coon load a gun…but didn’ tell any teachers. Why? “I don’t know what I was thinking…I didn’t want him to shoot me.” According to The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer, Smith was eating lunch about 15 minutes later and heard a loud noise. Thinking it was a book being dropped, he still didn’t react. (This is supposed to be a magnet school for gifted students.)
Interviewed on CBS’ Early Show this morning, Smith said that the shootings could have been prevented and that he and other students tried to warn principal Johneita Durant about Coon’s threats, but (according to Smith) the principal said she was too busy. “I told my friends in the class that he had a gun and stuff,” Smith said. “He was talking about doing it last week. I don’t know why they didn’t say nothing…We talked to the principal. She would try to get us all in the office, but it would always be too busy for it to happen.” Not surprisingly, calls to Durant went unreturned.
Not 24 hours later, we learn of another 14-year-old sick puppy, arrested Wednesday evening near Philadelphia, PA in Plymouth Township, as he allegedly planned a Columbine-style attack on Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School. He tried to recruit another student, who tipped off police. Among the items found were a 9 mm assault rifle, bought for the boy by his mother at a gun show, seven hand grenades (four of which were operational), knives, air guns, copies of The Anarchist Cookbook and Hitler’s Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf, and video of the April 1999 Colulmbine High School attack in Littleton, Colorado. In that incident, gunmen Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 23 others before committing suicide.
Police found no ammunition for the assault rifle. Montgomery County (PA) District Attorney Bruce L. Castor, Jr. said: “I do not think an attack was imminent and I am not certain that an attack was going to occur at all…It could have simply been big talking by a kid who thought that he was bullied previously and he was going to exact his revenge.” Looks like a pretty convincing arsenal to us. What normal kid would have all this in his bedroom? What parent would allow a child to own these items?
According to National School Safety and Security, Inc. of Cleveland, there have been more than 60 shooting incidents in U.S. schools in the last 10 years. As SuccessTech student Aaron King said while walking home from school after yesterday’s shootings: “In the end, you never know who is going to snap.”
Read another recent post about school shootings.
Photo credits: AP and WPVI-TV.
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