La Salle High School reopens after student shot himself Monday

Student in critical condition at UCMC

CINCINNATI - Counselors were available for students at La Salle High School Tuesday as they deal with the aftermath of an attempted suicide involving an honors-level student.

La Salle Director of Community Development Greg Tankersley said the student who shot himself in class Monday morning was highly involved in the school and has logged 80 hours of community service. He said the "action was not anticipated."

Tankersley said the parents of the student have asked that he not be identified. The teenager remains in critical condition at University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

"Take the time to tell your kids you love them," Tankersley said.

PHOTOS: Worried parents rush to school.

The shooting happened at about 9:07 a.m. Monday in a classroom with about 22 students, according to West.

The chief said at no time were the other students in danger. West said township officers and Hamilton County sheriff's deputies responded to the scene quickly after receiving 911 calls.

Officials said officers quickly determined that the shooting only involved one person. Detectives have not ascertained how the student was able to bring the handgun into the school.

Green Township Police Chief Bart West said the all of the students who were in the classroom were interviewed. He said the students told officers the incident happened in seconds and it was over before they realized what happened.

Investigators have not determined what may have spurred the shooting. West said detectives will be interviewing the student's classmates in the coming days.

All students were dismissed Monday, but no students were released without a parent or guardian, officials said. The school canceled all of Monday evening's scheduled activities.

Police and bomb-sniffing dogs searched the building Monday night but found nothing suspicious. West said they do not believe any other weapons are at the school. Extra security will be at the school Tuesday when classes resume.

Tankersley said classes were to begin Tuesday with a prayer service. Counselors and clergy will be at the school Tuesday to speak with the students.

"We need to keep this young man and this family in our thoughts and prayers," Tankersley said. "We think it's important to have our young men back in the building so we can talk about it with them and help them deal with this situation."

Officials at the all-male college prep Catholic school notified parents via email about the shooting about 35 minutes after it was reported. 

The school was placed on lockdown after the incident was reported, and students were later taken to the gym to wait for their parents to pick them up.

Officials said that there was no resource officer at the school and district officials said the school does not have metal detectors.

Tankersley said, "It's a very tragic situation for a Monday morning and we're doing everything we can. Our No. 1 priority is with that student that was involved and the students in that building."

Traffic was blocked on North Bend Road as hundreds of parents came to pick up their children at the school, which was cordoned off by yellow police tape and hemmed by police cars, fire engines and news trucks.

"Our faith at our high school is very strong. I think one thing you'll see is our young men and our families pull together in the good times and the bad. There's tears in the building, because no one wants to go through this," Tankersley said.

Monday's shooting was the second involving a La Salle student this year. In February, 17-year-old Justin Brown died after being shot during what police said was an attempted drug deal.

La Salle officials stressed that the Monday shooting was an isolated incident.

"La Salle is a tremendous school, it's a strong school and it's a school that has unfortunately faced tragedy before and it always impressed me with its strength and faith. I know that our students will rally together with the community and move forward," Superintendent of Archdiocese Schools Dr. Jim Rigg said.

Cincinnati City Councilman Charlie Winburn was one of the parents who came to the scene. His son is enrolled at La Salle.

"It's just so unfortunate for all the kids who are involved," Winburn said.

Exams were slated to start May 28 and AP exams were supposed to start on May 6.

Archdiocese official Dan Andriacco said the district is still trying to determine how to proceed with end-of-the-school-year activities.

"They have to figure out what's going to be best for the students and how to give them the adequate care they need," Andriacco said.

The school's security protocol was followed property, he said. 

"Each school has a plan," Andriacco said. La Salle does not have metal detectors, as is the case with all Catholic schools in the diocese.

District leaders and police said they plan to review La Salle's security plan and continue to investigate the incident.

Parents who spoke with 9 On You Side said they were shocked and frightened at the incident.

Mike Welsh's grandson is a junior at La Salle. When he saw the first televised reports, he thought: "It's guns again. That's the first thing I thought."

WCPO Digital reporter Kareem Elgazzar spoke with Travis Christman, whose son attends La Salle.

"I heard it on the news, he called me on the phone. I knew he was safe [and] I knew he wouldn't have done that so I wasn't too concerned, but it was nice to hear his voice. Young kids, they've done this since the beginning of time, I mean stress happens in their lives and they don't know how to deal with it."

Jamie Bueter said he was notified of the shooting by family members before being contacted by his son.

"Kids are kids and teenagers have the same problems regardless of upbringing and what school they go to. I just feel for the family. At this point I'm still kind of in shock and awe," Bueter said.

The Cincinnati community sent messages to La Salle students and the victim's family through various social media channels. On Twitter, the hashtag #prayforlasalle was used to send well wishes. 

Once Elder High School Principal Tom Otten learned of the incident, he said he allowed his students to use their cellphones to call home and let their parents know that they were OK.

Elder also gave permission for its counselors to respond to La Salle if needed. And Otten and his staff will be available to discuss the situation with students there.

The shooting was reminder to Otten to emphasize to troubled students and others: "It's never to late to talk to someone," Otten said. 

*WCPO Digital does not routinely cover suicides or attempted suicides. But after recent events, reports of guns in schools are of great public concern and demand coverage.

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