CHARDON, Ohio (Reuters) - The 17-year-old boy held in a shooting rampage at an Ohio high school has confessed to opening fire on fellow students he picked at random, prosecutors said on Tuesday, as two more teenagers died, bringing the death toll to three.
Prosecutors identified the shooter as T.J. Lane and said he has admitted to taking a knife and a .22-caliber pistol into the cafeteria at Chardon High School in a town 35 miles east of Cleveland on Monday and firing 10 rounds.
Students Demetrius Hewlin and Russell King Jr., 17, were both declared dead on Tuesday from wounds suffered in the incident, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s office. Another student, Daniel Parmertor, 16, died on Monday.
Prosecutors told a judge in Geauga County Juvenile Court that Lane told them he had selected his victims randomly. In his court appearance, Lane was ordered held in detention pending the filing of formal charges. The judge gave prosecutors until Thursday to file charges.
One student remained hospitalized with wounds from the attack while another was released from a hospital as the town prepared to hold a vigil to honor the victims later on Tuesday. At the high school, students spent the day huddling, talking and placing red ribbons around the grounds.
The incident marked the latest shooting at a U.S. school. The deadliest school shooting in the United States was a 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech University that left 33 people dead. The deadliest high school shooting claimed 12 students and a teacher in 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Chardon, the seat of Geauga County, is a semi-rural, affluent town with a population of about 5,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Authorities said they expected to release the results of an autopsy on Parmertor later on Tuesday and said autopsies may be performed on Hewlin and King on Wednesday.
King had no brain activity when he arrived at MetroHealth Medical Center and was declared brain dead, the medical examiner’s office said.
“We ask that Russell be remembered for who he was, a strong boy with a big heart. He will be missed by many. He was so full of life and we are honoring his wishes to help others by donating his organs,” King’s family said in a statement.
Hewlin’s family confirmed his death in a statement saying: “Demetrius was a happy young man who loved life and his family and friends.”
“We will miss him very much but we are proud that he will be able to help others through organ donation,” it said.
Previously, students and local media had identified Lane as a student at a school for at-risk youth whose family said they were in shock over the events and asked for privacy.
“The family wanted me to convey to the citizens of Geauga County and Northeastern Ohio that the family is devastated by this most recent event,” the Lane family’s lawyer Bob Farinacci told local WKYC news prior to Tuesday’s hearing.
“This is something that could never have been predicted. T.J.’s family has asked for some privacy while they try to understand how such a tragedy could have occurred and while they mourn this terrible loss for their community.”
The school district was closed on Tuesday and will not reopen fully for classes until Friday.
Chardon schools Superintendent Joseph Bergant has praised the actions of teachers, who he said had acted quickly to protect the students.
Chardon Police Chief Tim McKenna did not disclose a motive on Tuesday for the shooting, which happened on Monday morning while students were studying and eating breakfast.
Some witnesses told local media he appeared to target a table where a student who had started dating his former girlfriend was seated with friends.
The Lane family’s lawyer described the suspect as a “good kid” who had never been in trouble and had impressive grades.
“He’s a sophomore. He’s been doubling up on his classes with the intent of graduating this May. He pretty much sticks to himself but does have some friends and has never been in trouble over anything that we know about,” Farinacci said.
Reporting by Kim Palmer, Dan Burns, Andrew Stern, James B. Kelleher and David Bailey; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Will Dunham