Three high school students have died since a shooting in the cafeteria of Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio last Monday, Feb. 27. The shooter, who did not attend Chardon but was waiting for a transfer bus, has been identified as T.J. (Thomas) Lane.
Lane, who will likely be tried as an adult, is accused of shooting five students, of whom two were wounded and three killed. Daniel Parmertor, a 17-year-old who died shortly after the shooting, was the first victim. Tuesday morning, authorities announced that another victim, Russel King, Jr., who was airlifted to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland after sustaining a gunshot to the head, had also died.
The family of Demetrius Hewlin, the third victim to pass away, released a statement after his death Tuesday morning: “We are very saddened by the loss of our son and others in our Chardon community… Demetrius was a happy young man who loved life and his family and friends.”
All three of the slain victims were juniors. Senior Joy Rickers and junior Nick Walczak, the surviving victims, were hospitalized at Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights. Joy was released Tuesday afternoon.
T.J. Lane was apprehended about a half-mile from the school in Chardon Township on Woodin Rd. Lane turned himself in to citizens after being chased out of the school by teacher and coach Frank Hall.
Hall did not provide comments, after a request by Chardon School District superintendent Joe Bergant for faculty and staff members not to comment on the incident. Hall did express sadness for the victims and families involved.
In a statement Monday, superintendent Bergant said, “I want people to stay home tomorrow to reflect on their families, and if you haven’t hugged or kissed your kid, do.” Students are expected to return to the school of 1100 students on Friday. In the meantime, counselors are available throughout the district to assist grieving students, faculty, and relatives.
The Chardon School District posted a statement on its website Tuesday morning: “Our number-one priority is to reach out and help out students, staff, and families deal with this horrific tragedy.”
“Yesterday…was a profoundly sad day in Chardon… Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families at this difficult time,” the statement continued.
Lane will be charged with three counts of aggravated assault as an adult in Geauga County. Lane has reportedly said that he fired a total of 10 shots in the cafeteria of the local high school.
Lane attended Lake Academy Alternative School in Willoughby, a school of 60 designed for “reluctant learners” from Lake County and parts of Geauga County, where Chardon is located.
Some at the school have argued that Lane was an outcast in the community, but others have said that he had friends. Tyler Lillash, 16, told the Plain Dealer on Feb. 29, “Even though he was quiet, he still had friends… He was not bullied.”
GlobalGrind released a letter supposedly written by Lane via Facebook in late December that stated the following:
“You never even deserved the presence of God, and yet, I am here. Around your cradle I plod. Came on foot, without shod. How improper, how rude.
“However, they shall not mind the mud on my feet if there is blood on your sheet. Now! Feel death, not just mocking you. Not just stalking you but inside of you. Wriggle and writhe. Feel smaller beneath my might. Seizure in the Pestilence that is my scythe. Die, all of you.”
The letter has not been confirmed by authorities, but Chardon students brought the letter to the attention of police after Monday’s events.
The superintendent of the Educational Service Center, which oversees Lake Academy, would not comment on Lane.
Chardon is the largest city in Geauga County with a population of about 5100 people.
The Geauga County sheriff’s department, which handled the majority of the response, credits its effective response to training and preparation. Following the shooting, students at surrounding schools such as Maple Elementary and Notre Dame Cathedral Latin entered lockdown until the situation was deemed safe.
In a statement to The Observer, Case Western Reserve University Police Department Sergeant Jeffrey Daberko said, “The university has taken a number of steps over the years to prepare for what law enforcement calls an active shooter scenario such as the tragedy that took place in Chardon yesterday.”
“Many universities, including CWRU, started focusing more heavily on safety issues after the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, and of course, CWRU had its own shooting tragedy in 2003.”
The 2003 incident at CWRU involved a Weatherhead graduate student shooter at the Peter B. Lewis building on campus. One graduate student was killed and several were injured.
The 2007 Virginia Tech incident left 32 people dead and 25 wounded, making it the deadliest single-shooter massacre in U.S. history. The massacre led to a rally for gun control and a call for all campuses to ban guns, especially after a state-run panel recommended stronger gun control.
People across the country have watched in awe as the incident unfolded via local and national news outlets such as CNN. Campaigns to “wear red in support of Chardon” flooded social media sites as soon as Monday afternoon, gaining the support of thousands.