‘He’s shooting all my babies:’ Principals recount day of South City school shooting

Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 7:20 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- On Monday morning, Central Visual and Performing Arts High School principal Dr. Kacy Seals Shahid said she was preparing to have her staff do a sweep of the halls to find the students who were late for class. Before that could happen, Shahid said she was notified by a security officer that an intruder was in the building.

She said she sounded an intruder alert and looked out into the hallway a few moments later.

“I saw the assailant or perpetrator down the hall to my right and I saw the gun,” said Shahid.

Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience High School is a separate school that operates independently in a neighboring building that connects to CVPA through a hallway. Principal Frederick Steele said he was in a meeting when he was notified that something was happening and ordered an intruder alert to be sounded.

Steele said his training on how to respond to an active shooter kicked in, and he quickly went to the first floor.

“Going door to door making sure every door, I even got there before the announcement was made, to make sure they were closing and locking their doors,” he said.

Shahid said after making eye contact with the shooter, 19-year-old Orlando Harris, she stepped back into her office and locked the door. But because she has a glass door to her office, Shahid said she expected the gunman to shoot his way in and make her his next victim.

“There was no moment that I didn’t think it would be my last day,” said Shahid.

61-year-old health and physical education teacher Jean Kuczka and 15-year-old student Alexzandria Bell were shot and killed during the shooting rampage. Seven students were wounded.

Steele said a security officer brought Bell, who was badly injured at the time, to him and then said he had to go warn others.

“I tried to attend to her for a few minutes, keeping her calm. She was hysterical and she was visibly severely injured,” he said.

Shahid said she didn’t have her phone with her so she tried to use her Apple watch to call 911. Then she got a call from her husband and then her sister-in-law.

She said her sister-in-law connected another caller, someone named “Pastor Mary” who prayed for Shahid. She said it gave her hope.

“I began to pray for my students, I began to pray for myself, I began to pray for my teachers,” said Shahid.

Steele said police began entering the 2-building complex through a door to his building that was near the hallway where he was comforting Bell. He said that police officers, SWAT officers and FBI agents poured into the building by the dozens and he directed them where to go.

Shahid said it was after a security officer knocked on her office door and called her by name that she felt safe to come out and to evacuate the building. She said it was distressing to see the fear and panic on the faces of her students.

Steele said there will be no rush to bring students back into the school buildings and it will only happen when students are emotionally ready. In the meantime, he encouraged students to make efforts to gather with classmates and avoid being isolated.