The teenager arrested in an Ohio school shooting that killed three students didn’t know his victims and chose them randomly, a prosecutor said today as the 17-year-old appeared in juvenile court.
TJ Lane admitted taking a .22-calibre pistol to Chardon High School along with a knife and firing 10 shots at a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table on Monday morning, the court heard.
The hearing came hours after the death toll rose to three, and as schoolmates and locals grappled with the tragedy and wondered what could have set the gunman off in Chardon, Ohio.
‘He did not know the students but chose them randomly,’ said David Joyce, prosecuting. Demetrius Hewlin, 16, died today following the deaths of students Daniel Parmertor, 16, and Russell King Jr, 17.
Lane’s face twitched lightly while the prosecutor recounted the attack, and the slim young man sniffled and half-closed his eyes as he walked out of the room with sheriff’s deputies.
His grandfather, who has custody of the teenager, and two aunts joined him in court. The women reached over and lightly embraced the grandfather as the hearing began.
Judge Timothy Grendell ordered the boy, who is considered a juvenile, to be held for at least 15 days. He is expected to face at least three counts of aggravated murder when eventually charged.
It comes after revelations that Lane, whom classmates at Chardon High School described as a bullied outcast, posted a chilling note on his Facebook page just weeks before the shooting on Monday.
Lane ranted on Facebook about ‘a man with a frown. No job. No family. No crown. His luck had run out. Lost and alone… seizure in the Pestilence that is my scythe. Die, all of you.’
Demetrius’s relatives said he was a happy boy who loved life and his family and friends. ‘We are very saddened by the loss of our son and others in our Chardon community,’ a family statement said.
‘Demetrius was a happy young man who loved life and his family and friends. We will miss him very much but we are proud that he will be able to help others through organ donation.’
News of the letter comes as more details emerged about how Lane specifically targeted one group of students in the cafeteria, including one who had started dating Lane’s ex-girlfriend.
Local reports identified one of the victims as Russell, a sociable 17-year-old who had started dating an ex-girlfriend of Lane.
After being shot in the back while sitting at a table in the cafeteria, Russell was airlifted to MetroHealth Medical Center. He was declared on Tuesday morning as the second dead victim.
The Center identified the first fatally slain student as 16-year-old Daniel Parmertor, who was shot when Lane targeted a group in the high school cafeteria at Chardon High School, police said.
In the wake of the shooting, other students said Lane was known as an outcast who had apparently been bullied. He allegedly tweeted about bringing a gun to school, but nobody took this seriously.
Now investigators hope to gain some insight into the mind of the killer, and have found a chilling note he wrote about his dark thoughts two months before the shooting spree.
‘Now! Feel death, not just mocking you… Die, all of you,’ he wrote in the note that he posted to Facebook on December 20.
Freshman Danny Komertz, 15, said he was just about to leave for his first-period health class when he heard a loud popping sound and then saw the gunman open fire.
The freshman said that the person who died was trying to get under a cafeteria table to protect himself and shield his face.
Danny said that there were at least 100 students in the cafeteria at the time and that most fled immediately as shots were fired.
‘He was aiming right at them as he was two feet away … He wasn’t shooting around the cafeteria at all. He was directly aiming at the four of them,’ Danny said.
Another student saw the entire incident because he was right in the middle of it, so much so that his ear was grazed by a bullet.
‘All of a sudden we heard a loud bang, almost like a firework. We turned around and I saw T.J. standing at the table behind us with his gun pointed and firing,’ said witness Danny Mueller.
‘His first shot made me look. His second shot I watched him take, which hit somebody behind me, and his third shot hit me as I was turning away. There was no warning or anything. He just opened fire.’
The shooting ended when the school’s assistant football coach Frank Hall chased Lane out of the building, with many saying that the heroic move is just in keeping with the coach’s nature.
‘Coach Hall, he always talks about how much he cares about us students, his team and everyone.
‘And I think today he really went out and he proved how much he cared about us. He would take a bullet for us,’ said student Neil Thomas.
The first victim’s family issued the following statement through the hospital: ‘We are shocked by this senseless tragedy.
‘Danny was a bright young boy who had a bright future ahead of him. This family is torn by this loss.’
Daniel Parmertor had aspired to be a computer repairman and was shot while waiting for the bus bound for a vocational centre.
His teacher at Auburn Career School had no idea why Daniel, ‘a very good young man, very quiet,’ had been targeted, said Auburn superintendent Maggie Lynch.
Reports on Lane’s personality and social status have been shaky, as each student interviewed paints a different picture of the alleged shooter.
Some say he was a loner, others say he was bullied, and yet another said Lane was ‘gothic’.
After hearing news of the shootings, anxious parents thronged the streets around the school as they heard from students via text message and cellphone long before official word came of the attack.
By midday, officers investigating the shooting blocked off a road in a heavily wooded area several miles from the school.
Federal agents patrolled the muddy driveway leading to several spacious homes and ponds, while other officers walked a snowy hillside.
There are mixed reports as to whether Lane was enrolled at Chardon High School or whether he was just there while waiting to be transferred to Lake Academy Alternative School.
On their website, the school says it handles students with a variety of issues, including ‘substance abuse /chemical dependency, anger issues, mental health issues, truancy, delinquency, difficulties with attention/organisation, and academic deficiencies’.
Students’ accounts echo the terror and uncertainty immediately following the attack.
Junior Nate Mueller, who said he was once friends with Lane, was hit in the right ear as bullets went flying.
‘My friends were crawling on the floor…It was almost like a firecracker went off,’ he said, adding that Lane was silent the entire time. ‘That’s what made it so random.’
The reality of the situation hasn’t set in for many students. ‘It all feels like a movie,’ he said. ‘I am sure tomorrow I’ll be devastated.’
He managed to run from the cafeteria and hid behind a car before dialing 911.
Nate said he had been a friend of Lane’s until high school, when he entered what he called a ‘gothic’ phase. Police say that Lane is now in custody.
Though the day was immersed in tragedy, the heroics of one teacher have already been praised.
Coach Hall, who also serves as the teacher during study hall and is widely known among the student body, reportedly chased the shooter from the building.
He was joined by fellow teacher Joseph Ricci, according to reports tweeted by students. The shooter apparently tried to aim his gun at Mr Hall, but they kept charging him.
News of Mr Hall’s heroics first began on Twitter as students expressed their gratitude. One student wrote: ‘Doesn’t surprise me coach put his life on the line today, always been selfless and put others (sic)lives infront (sic) of his.’
Authorities used a K-9 unit to track down the suspect, who was found about a half mile from the school, not far from his car.
Authorities initially believed was carried out by more than one gunman, though it was later discovered one student acted alone.
FBI officials confirm they believe that Lane was allegedly the only person involved in the attack.
They are currently doing a sweep of his home and the surrounding area for any evidence that could be helpful in the investigation.
However, they will not speculate on the motive for the shootings.
Student Evan Erasmus told officials that the alleged shooter posted a message to Twitter that he was going to bring a gun with him to Chardon, but that no one took him seriously.
Others said that Lane texted people in the days and weeks before the attack.
The FBI and local authorities are now searching the suspect’s house, which is being treated as a crime scene. They will be looking for any notes or additional evidence.
Student Joshua Roth was in the cafeteria this morning and told his mother Jeannette that a boy ‘stood up and started shooting, and then it was chaos,’ Fox News reported.
Another parent told Fox News that five to ten shots were fired in total, according to his son. The boy was in the cafeteria at the time.
Students were quickly evacuated to a middle school across the street. More than 1,100 students attend the high school, which is 30 miles east of Cleveland.
Police chief Tim McKenna confirmed the first student’s death in a news conference at noon.
A female student told Fox News that said she saw the gunman chasing a male student down one of the school’s hallways. She ‘ducked’ out of the way into a nearby classroom to avoid him.
Students were reportedly alerted when a reverse 911 call went out, alerting all parents in the school district of the shooting.