The family of the St. Louis high school mass shooter asked police for help removing the AR-15-style assault rifle from him nine days before the rampage – but it somehow ended up back in his hands, police said.
On Oct. 15, police responded to a domestic disturbance call at 19-year-old Orlando Harris’ home, where his mother found the weapon and wanted it removed, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Officers determined Harris was legally permitted to have the gun, but transferred it to a third party so it would not remain on the premises, officials said late Wednesday.
“While it is not yet clear when or how the suspect came to be in possession of the firearm after this incident, we can confirm that the firearm involved in this incident is the firearm used in the shooting Monday,” police Sgt. Charles Wall said in a statement.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating to track the source of the rifle sale, Police Commissioner Michael Sack said, adding that it is difficult to track a gun’s ownership if it has been sold from person-to-person.
Harris left a manifesto-like note in his car before storming Central Visual and Performing Arts High School with the rifle and at least 600 rounds of ammo Monday, killing physical education teacher Jean Kuczka, 61, and 15-year-old student Alexandria Bell.
Seven others were wounded in the bloodbath.
St. Louis Police Commissioner Michael Sack also told reporters that Harris had been seeing mental health professionals and that his family had him committed several times.
Whenever the family “noticed him, kind of, stepping out of line … they always worked to try and get him back on his medication, back into therapy, whatever it is that he needed,” he said.
“Sometimes that’s not enough. Mental health is a difficult thing. It’s hard to tell when someone is violent and going to act out,” Sack said.
“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,” he said.
The school building was locked Monday morning and an unarmed security guard saw Harris trying to get in. Sack has declined to say how the gunman forced his way inside.
Officers, some of whom were off-duty, arrived at the scene four minutes after the 911 call, police said. Eight minutes later, they located Harris on the third floor, barricaded in a classroom.
Police said that when Harris shot at officers, they shot back and broke through the door. When Harris pointed his rifle at the cops, they fired several shots, killing him.
The dead student was found in a hallway. Kuczka was found in a classroom and died at a hospital, officials said.
Meanwhile, one of the wounded students, 15-year-old Brian Collins, has been released from the hospital, his life spared when a bullet to his jaw narrowly missed an artery.
Stephanie Malia Krauss, Brian’s godmother and aunt, told the Post-Dispatch he was in health class when Harris broke into the room, killing Kuczka.
The wounded teen escaped by jumping from the second-story window.
Brian, an art lover who specializes in pencil charcoal drawings, was also shot in both hands and is wearing splints from the fingers to the elbows.
“There’s no way of knowing the extent of the injuries until follow-up appointments and the swelling goes down,” Krauss told the paper.
With Post wires