EXTENDED STORY: La. student shoots self, fires over teacher’s head

Published 10:51 pm Monday, May 18, 2009

A student shot himself in the head Monday at a Louisiana middle school after he pointed a handgun at a teacher who had never taught him, then fired over her head, sheriff’s officials said.

The 15-year-old student, whose name was not released, fired once around 9 a.m. inside a classroom at Larose-Cut Off Middle School, then went into a bathroom and shot himself, said Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre.

The boy was in critical but stable condition Monday afternoon, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Lesley Hill-Peters.

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About 500 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders attend the school about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans. Webre said there’s no indication the boy was in trouble with the school or the law. The teen had no reason to be in the classroom, he said.

Several other students described him as a quiet youth who never talked about guns or violence. He was a year or two older than most of his classmates.

“I believe he had a cousin who was a student in the class,” Webre said. “Other than the fact that they are cousins and from the same small community, we have not drawn any other conclusions.”

The school was locked down, and the students were evacuated room by room to a nearby VFW hall. A nearby elementary school was also being evacuated.

The teen walked to the front of the room and pointed what deputies believe was a .25-caliber chrome pistol at the whiteboard, Hill-Peters said. He tried to fire at the board, but it wouldn’t go off. He then stepped forward, pointed the gun at the teacher, raised it and fired a single shot over her head.

On Monday afternoon, parents gathered in a line four or five across and more than a block long to get their children.

“This kind of thing doesn’t happen in a place like this,” Gay Orgeron said.

Her 14-year-old daughter, eighth-grader Hailey Orgeron, was weeping. The girl said they had just changed classes for third period when the principal announced, “We need a lockdown.”

Coley Gaspard, 14, said he was in his seventh-grade English and reading class at Larose-Cut Off Middle School when the boy came in just before 9 a.m. The teen yelled for everyone to get down, cursing at the class.

Nobody moved. Gaspard knew the boy, whom he described as quiet and nice, and thought it was a dramatic enactment for some sort of lesson. Then, he said, the boy walked over and pointed the gun at the teacher, ordering her to say “Hail Marilyn Manson,” Gaspard said.

She said nothing. He fired into the wall and told another boy to get up. The seventh-grader stayed in his seat, and the teen left.

Hill-Peters, the spokeswoman, said she could not confirm or deny that account.

“After a situation like this you’re going to have a lot of kids, a lot of parents, a lot of people saying a lot of stuff,” she said.

Eighth-grader Dustin Sevin said that he has been close friends with the boy for several years, and that they had the same second-period home room. He said his friend never talked about guns or violence. At the end of second period, his friend said he needed to see the nurse and left with his backpack.

“That was the last I saw him.”