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Published: Thursday, 10/11/2007

Student gunman in Cleveland warned classmates of attack; records show history of mental problems

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A male shooting victim gives the thumbs up as he is carried out on a stretcher after being shot.<br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <b><font color=red>VIEW PHOTO GALLERY:</font></b> <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20071011&Kategori=NEWS03&Lopenr=1011002&Ref=PH" target="_blank"><b><font color=maroon> of Cleveland SuccessTech Academy shooting</font></b>
A male shooting victim gives the thumbs up as he is carried out on a stretcher after being shot.<br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <b><font color=red>VIEW PHOTO GALLERY:</font></b> <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20071011&Kategori=NEWS03&Lopenr=1011002&Ref=PH" target="_blank"><b><font color=maroon> of Cleveland SuccessTech Academy shooting</font></b>
GUS CHAN / AP Enlarge

CLEVELAND A high school student said Thursday that he and classmates had warned their principal about threats by a classmate who shot and wounded four people before killing himself, and believed the attack could have been prevented.

The student, Rasheem Smith, said on CBS' "Early Show" that despite their warnings about the student who opened fire Wednesday, Asa H. Coon, principal Johneita Durant told them she was too busy.

"I told my friends in the class that he had a gun and stuff," said Smith, 15. "He was talking about doing it last week. I don't know why they didn't say nothing.

Click the play button to start the AP video student interview

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"We talked to the principal. She would try to get us all in the office, but it would always be too busy for it to happen," Smith said.

Responding on the show, schools CEO Eugene Sanders said the district would investigate. "We're going to review the entire situation over the course of today and tomorrow, make a determination of what has indeed occurred, and then see what the appropriate recommendations are, so we can move forward on Monday morning," he said.

The Associated Press made several attempts to reach Durant at SuccessTech Academy after the shootings, but she did not make herself available for comment.

Armed with two revolvers, Coon opened fire at the alternative school, wounding two students and two teachers. He had a history of mental problems and was known for cursing at teachers and bickering with students.

Police found a duffel bag stocked with ammunition and three knives in a bathroom, but no suicide note, Police Chief Michael McGrath said.

People at Coon's home late Wednesday declined to comment.

All classes in the city school district were canceled Thursday, and school officials said counseling would be available for students at recreation centers throughout Cleveland.

Coon, who was suspended Monday for fighting with a classmate and was under suspension at the time of the shootings, had warned classmates of an attack, but none took him seriously.

"When he got suspended, he was like 'I got something for you all,'" said student Frances Henderson, who said she often got into arguments with Coon. "I guess this is what he had."

Coon, who was white, stood out in the predominantly black school for dressing in a goth style, wearing a black trench coat, black boots, a dog collar and chains, she said.

Henderson, who is black, she said she didn't believe race played a role in the shootings.

"He's crazy. He threatened to blow up our school. He threatened to stab everybody," said Doneisha LeVert, 14. "We didn't think nothing of it."

911 audio reveals frantic moments following the shooting rampage. (Oct. 10) - Press the play button

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Police believe Coon, wearing a Marilyn Manson shirt, black jeans and black nail polish, targeted the two teachers he shot Wednesday.

Coon's troubles seemed to come to a breaking point this week. Students said Monday's fight was over God Coon told his classmates he didn't believe in God and instead worshiped rocker Marilyn Manson.

Coon had mental health problems, spent time in two juvenile facilities and threatened to commit suicide while in a mental health facility, according to juvenile court records obtained by The Plain Dealer newspaper.

The Department of Children and Family Services was called to Coon's home in 2000 because he had burns on his arms and scratches on his forehead, the newspaper said.

When he was 12, Coon was charged in juvenile court with domestic violence. His mother, Lori, had called police and told them her son slapped her and called her a vulgar name. She had been trying to intervene in a fight between Coon and his twin sister, The Plain Dealer reported.

He was also suspended from school last year for attempting to hurt a student, the newspaper said.

"He used to cuss all the teachers out," said Henderson, 14.

The first person shot, 14-year-old Michael Peek, had punched Coon in the face right before the shootings began, Smith said.

Coon "came out of the bathroom and bumped Mike and he (Mike) punched him in his face. Mike started walking. He shot Mike in the side," said Smith.

Darnell Rodgers, 18, said he realized he had been shot when he felt his arm burning.

Rodgers was treated for a graze wound to his right elbow. He told NBC's "Today" on Thursday he didn't believe he was targeted.

"He just fired the gun," Rodgers said. "He didn't say anything."

Michael Grassie, a 42-year-old history teacher, was hospitalized in fair condition late Wednesday after about 90 minutes of surgery.

Math teacher David Kachadourian, who was treated for a minor wound to the back of one shoulder, knew of no reason why Coon would target him.

"I never felt personally threatened or personally at risk," said Kachadourian, who had Coon is his beginning algebra class. "I had concerns about him, yes. He seemed like an angry young man. I did not fear for my own safety."

SuccessTech Academy, with about 240 students, is an alternative high school in the public school district that stresses technology and entrepreneurship.

Click the play button to start the AP video report

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