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After School Shooting, St. Louis Archbishop Calls for Tackling ‘Dual Crises’ of Mental Health, Violence

ST LOUIS — Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis, Missouri, called for prayers on Monday, Oct. 24, after at least three people were killed in a shooting at a St. Louis high school.

“Once again, people in our city have experienced the tragic loss of lives and the trauma of a school shooting,” Archbishop Rozanski said in a statement. “I am holding our neighbors in the Central Visual & Performing Arts High School community in my prayers.”

“I urge all people of goodwill to join together in prayer for everyone affected by today’s shooting and for divine guidance as we continue as a community to seek ways of addressing the dual crises of mental health and violence,” he continued.

An adult woman and a teenage student were killed after a gunman broke into Central Visual & Performing Arts High School on the morning of Oct. 24, according to Interim Commissioner of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Col. Michael Sack. At least eight people were taken to the hospital with various injuries, he said.

Sack said authorities responded within minutes of reports of the shooting and ultimately shot and killed the suspect, who appeared to be about 20 years old and armed with what Sack described as a “long gun.” He did not provide a name for the shooter or victims.

Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, also asked for prayers for those who died.

“Please join me in praying for all affected by the shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts high school in St. Louis,” Bishop McKnight said in a tweet. “We seek God’s guidance and comfort as we try to make sense of this tragedy.”

Central Visual Performing Arts is a magnet school specializing in visual, musical, and performing arts. The school has 383 students. It shares a building with another magnet school, Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, which has 336 students and was also evacuated.

Reports following the shooting told the stories of students jumping from windows, barricading doors, huddling in classroom corners, and fleeing the building for safety. At a news conference, Sack highlighted the trauma “everyone who survived here is going to take home.”

“It’s terrible to think about. Here is a place where kids go to learn, to grow, to develop, and something like this happened, which is heartbreaking,” the commissioner said.

This is the fortieth school shooting this year that resulted in injuries or death, according to Education Week, a publication that covers K-12 education. The tally is the most school shootings in a single year since Education Week began tracking such incidents in 2018.

Archbishop Rozanski noted that the Oct. 24 tragedy came a day before the multi-denominational Vigil to Save Children’s Lives and Interfaith Gun Safety Initiative launch. The event includes a vigil at Mt. Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, mourning rituals of various faith traditions, and conclude with a candle-lighting ceremony and refreshments. It is open to the public.

“It is a sad irony that this tragedy is the day before the multi-denominational Vigil to Save Children’s Lives and Interfaith Gun Safety Initiative launch,” Archbishop Rozanski said.