Five students reportedly injured at Ohio school shooting

Posted at 8:57 AM, Feb 27, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-27 19:48:57-05

Five students were wounded when a gunman opened fire in the cafeteria of a suburban Cleveland high school just as the school day was beginning Monday, law enforcement officials said.

The suspected Chardon High School shooter — believed to be a student, according to a school official — was in custody, FBI Special Agent Scott Wilson told reporters.

It was not clear how the suspect was taken into custody, and Wilson declined to say how badly the injured students had been hurt in the incident in Chardon, Ohio, about 30 miles east of Cleveland.

“We just hope that they’re OK,” he said.

Two students injured in the shooting were taken to Hillcrest Hospital, spokeswoman Heather Phillips said. She declined to comment on their injuries. It was unclear where the remaining injured were taken.

Three students were taken by helicopter to MetroHealth Medical Center, a sheriff’s official said.

A student at Chardon, Evan Erasmus, told CNN affiliate WEWS that the victims may have been students at another school in nearby Auburn, Ohio, waiting for a bus to take them there.

He said the suspect may have posted a threatening message Sunday night on the social networking service Twitter.

“I think he said that he was going to bring a gun to school and I think that everyone just blew it off like he was joking,” Erasmus said.

The shooting shocked parents in the community of 5,100 people.

One student told CNN affiliate WKYW that he heard what he thought at first was firecrackers.

“Then I saw a bunch of people running out so I started running,” said the student, whose name was not available. “I heard someone yell behind me, ‘Get down.'”

The boy’s mother said she was terrified.

“I had just dropped him off at the school and not even 10 minutes later I got a text from him saying there was a shooting at the school,” she said.

Investigators took over the school Monday morning and were collecting evidence after students had been evacuated to nearby Maple Elementary School, said Lt. John Hiscox of the Geauga County Sherrif’s office.

He declined to say how authorities learned of the shooting.

School administrators called off school for the day and assured parents that students were safe.

Still, parents eager to retrieve their children hurried to school buildings, forming long lines as school officials and police checked identification before releasing students. SWAT team members stood guard outside the school, allowing only a few parents at at time inside, enhancing what was a surreal scene for many.

“This stuff doesn’t happen here at Chardon. Everybody’s a little upset,” said one parent who was preparing to pick up his daughter, a 10th-grader who had been evacuated to Maple Elementary School.

Parents and children frequently embraced and cried when reunited.

Teresa Hunt said she exchanged about 50 texts with her 18-year-old daughter, a senior at the high school. They began around 7:45 a.m., minutes after the shooting was reported. Hunt said her daughter hunkered down with her class inside their classroom, staying clear of the door. She said they could hear police officers running down the hall.

“They’re terrified. She was crying. Her anxiety was way up,” Hunt said.

“I did ask her about the third or fourth text in, if she had any indication that something was going to break out,” Hunt said. “She said, ‘No, this was sudden. I had heard nothing.’ Her friends had heard nothing also.”

Erasmus said he believed that frequent shooting-situation drills and the quick response of school authorities helped prevent the situation from becoming worse.

“We’re not that kind of place where it happens so it’s really shocking,” he said.

CNN’s Melissa Gray and Chuck Johnston contributed to this report.