Lowellville police chief: Boy who shot himself remains on life support
LOWELLVILLE — Lowellville police Chief Rick Alli said Saturday the boy who shot himself in the Lowellville Schools cafeteria Thursday morning was on life support the last he heard, but investigators still do not know the reason for his actions at the school.
“I have not been informed myself,” Alli said of the boy’s condition. “I know he was supposed to be on a life support system.”
As for what may have caused the boy to act in that way, Alli said he does not know yet.
“We still haven’t determined his mindset, and that’s where we are now, 48 hours later, still trying to figure out what his mindset was,” Alli said Saturday morning. The boy is believed to be a seventh grader. The shooting led to a lockdown and for school to be canceled the rest of the day Thursday and Friday. No one else was injured.
A student interviewed by The Vindicator Thursday morning outside of the school said he is a friend of the injured boy. He said the boy “didn’t say anything” before he went to the corner of the room and fired the gun multiple times. “I don’t know why he did it,” the friend said. “It was weird.”
The boy was severely injured in the 10:17 a.m. incident that took place only 30 minutes after the school district completed an active-shooter drill.
When Alli was asked whether the boy’s actions could have been related to the drill held earlier, he said investigators do not believe so, but they have looked into that possibility.
He said two detectives with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office have headed the investigation, leaving Alli time to address the issues in the aftermath of the shooting, including counseling sessions that began at the school Friday and will continue next week.
“I’ve been at the school for the last 20-some hours. I was there until 9 p.m. the first day and yesterday until 5 p.m. I was there all day,” he said of Friday, when counseling students was the focus.
“We are going to have it all of next week. And we’re going to basically try to get the mental health aspect of the community back in order because we had children in the cafeteria when the incident occurred.” But he added that investigators have not yet determined “what child saw what.”
He said the school’s seventh graders were having lunch at the time of the shooting, so they were in the room, as well as some high school students. The complex is for kindergarten through grade 12.
Alli said it has not yet been determined how many students were in the cafeteria at the time of the shooting. He said the department also has not determined whether it will release the name of the child involved.
Alli said he was in the building at the time of the shooting. He was there through the morning as part of the drill. At the time of the shooting, he and several school administrators were reviewing results of the drill.
“We were going over our success and what we could do better to make our drill better when this actually occurred,” Alli said. “We were in assessment mode. That’s why myself, the principal the assistant principal, the (information technology) guy, we were all meeting. That’s why for the kids, it was still fresh in their minds. They did everything text book because they had just done it,” he said.
While the meeting was taking place, students came to the room and told Alli about the shooting. He was the first person to get to the cafeteria and was there “within 45 seconds of the actual shooting,” Alli said. “The kids ran and got me,” he said of witnesses to the shooting.
He said officers from various agencies responded immediately to the school when word went out that an active shooter situation was taking place.
“The immediate response from the departments that were there that day was phenomenal,” Alli said. More than 10 deputies with the Mahoning County sheriff’s office were there most of the day.
Shortly after Alli entered the cafeteria and assessed the scene, he determined that other students were probably not in danger, he said.
A Lowellville Fire Department emergency medical technician who was working as a cafeteria employee Thursday morning and a school nurse responded to the cafeteria very soon after the shooting and rendered first aid to the boy.
Alli described the beginning of the episode as “10 minutes of chaos” and said, “I’ve had a lot of people call me and thank me for my expertise, but my real hero was an EMT on the premises and a school nurse who came immediately behind me to render aid to this child.”
He said the fact that those two people trusted him enough to follow him into the cafeteria and render aid “was the highest thank you and honor I could get because they felt safe and secure that I would protect them” Alli said.
Alli has been Lowellville police chief six years.
A positive in the incident was that the school complex was that at the time of the incident, essentially still in lockdown from the drill, which had ended 30 minutes earlier.
“We were in lockdown in less than 30 seconds” after the incident, Alli said. “We had just gone through the drill. We were basically still in a semi lockdown mode. It was a blessing.”
He said the message that went over the loud speaker in the school was that “This is not the drill,” Alli said.
Furthermore, “the children had just practiced it. The children had already been shown where do they go if something like this happens.”
Alli said another positive was that the cafeteria is a wide open space, helping him assess the situation quickly.
“I had enough fire power, and I was in a good position tactically if there was any other danger there. I could defend it while (other officers) could get there in a reasonable amount of time.”
Within a short time after the incident began, officers were being told over radio communications that the situation was under control.
“That’s why you (notify other officers that the situation is under control) is because you don’t want anybody getting hurt getting there if they are not needed immediately,” he said.
Alli said it’s important to send out the “under control” message to responding officers so they know they can slow down.
Alli said “a fairly decent turnout” of students and their families came to the school Friday for counseling, though it was fewer than expected. “It did work. We did have a large complement of therapists and counselors there, and a lot of the kids came, felt comfortable on the first day,” he said.
Alli said he spoke with some children on Friday who approached him to offer information, but officials believe children should be allowed to come talk about what they saw when they are comfortable doing so.
“When you’re dealing with kids and excited parents, we’re feeling like we want to let them come as they are comfortable.” He said the belief is that, “You’ve got to give them a little time to grieve, pull themselves together and come forward. I believe a lot of the children will come forward.”
When Alli was asked whether his department had written a report on the incident and whether it would be released to the public, he said, “We don’t have anything official on paper yet. We are still looking at all aspects of how it happened, what happened, so there’s not anything concrete that would be more than a simple call log of the date and time it happened,” he said.
The Boardman 911 center, which dispatches for Lowellville, released a call log and the 911 calls related to the episode Friday morning.
Maj. Jeff Allen of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s office said the sheriff’s office views the reports sheriff’s detectives wrote to be “work product” and is not releasing them to the public.
Friday evening, Lowellville Superintendent Geno Thomas released information on the school website stating there will be no school for students again Monday. School is expected to resume Tuesday. Counseling will be available all week. Anyone needing emotional help can also call the Help Network at 330-747- 2696, Thomas said. Thomas added an increased police presence will be at the school this week.
The following are the details in Thomas’ news release:
Monday — There is no school for students. Students and parents who need to meet with a counselor can report to the small gym through the band doors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Outdoor sports and after-school activities will resume.
Tuesday — School will resume on a staggered schedule for students. Elementary grades (K-6) will begin at the regular start time. High school students (7-12) will follow the two-hour delay start schedule (9:45 a.m. starts the first period).
Wednesday and Thursday — Students (K-12) will return to school all day at normal times.
Friday — Students (K-12) will return to school all day at normal times. “Senior Farewell” will start at 9 a.m. whereas parents and family can gather outside on the track. All students attending prom will be dismissed at 10 a.m. Promenade will begin at 6:15 p.m. at the Lowellville High School gym. The prom will be at The Embassy.
“Counselors will be on site all week to assist students, staff, and parents as we transition back into school. Also, there will be an increased police presence at the school,” Thomas stated in the news release.
He said if parents feel the need to keep their child home, they should call the student off to the main office. Absences will be excused next week.
Also, anyone in need of support over the weekend can call the Help Network at 330-747-2696.