CHARDON, Ohio - The teenager accused of killing three students in a shooting at a school cafeteria in the U.S. state of Ohio chose his victims at random and is "someone who's not well," a prosecutor said Tuesday as the slightly built young man appeared in juvenile court.
T.J. Lane, 17, admitted taking a .22-calibre pistol and a knife to Chardon High and firing 10 shots at a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table Monday morning, Prosecutor David Joyce said. He said Lane didn't know the victims.
Lane will probably be charged with three counts of aggravated murder and other offences, the prosecutor said. Meanwhile, one of two wounded students was released from the hospital Tuesday.
Lane seemed small next to the sheriff's deputies who led him into court, and said little more than "Yes, sir" in response to questions from the judge.
His face twitched lightly while the prosecutor recounted the attack, and he sniffled and half-closed his eyes as he left the courtroom under guard.
The hearing came hours after the death toll rose to three, and as schoolmates and townspeople wondered what could have set off Lane, a young man described by other students as extremely quiet, with few if any friends.
The court appearance did little to solve the mystery. Afterward, though, the prosecutor appeared to rule out rumours and speculation that the gunman lashed out after being bullied or that the shooting had something to do with drug-dealing.
"He chose his victims at random. This is not about bullying. This is not about drugs," Joyce said. "This is someone who's not well, and I'm sure in our court case we'll prove that to all of your desires and we'll make sure justice is done here in this county."
Joyce would not elaborate. Both sides in the case are under a gag order imposed by the judge at the prosecutor's request.
Judge Timothy Grendell ordered the boy held for at least 15 days. Prosecutors have until Thursday to bring charges against him and are expected to ask that he be tried as an adult. In addition to imposing the gag order, the judge barred media outlets from taking photos of the faces of the suspect and some of his relatives.
The Associated Press transmitted photos and video of Lane that were shot before the hearing. The AP and at least one other media outlet, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, plan to challenge the judge's order Wednesday.
Meanwhile, shaken residents extended condolences to the families of those killed and wounded. All three of the dead were students, as are the two wounded victims.
The Chardon police chief said authorities learned Tuesday that the wounded female student had been released and was home with her family. He said it was good news amid tragic circumstances. The one student still hospitalized remained in serious condition Tuesday evening at Hillcrest Hospital in suburban Cleveland, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Authorities on Tuesday said that Demetrius Hewlin, 16, and Russell King Jr., 17, had died. Daniel Parmertor, 16, died shortly after the shooting.
Hewlin attended Chardon High. King and Parmertor were students at the Auburn Career Center, a vocational school, and were waiting in the Chardon High cafeteria for their daily bus when they were shot.
Lane's family is mourning "this terrible loss for their community," Robert Farinacci, an attorney for Lane, said in a statement.
Lane did not attend Chardon High but waited there for the bus to Lake Academy, a school for students with academic or behavioural problems. Authorities would not say how and why he ended up at Lake Academy.
The shooting sent students screaming from the building, and some of that chaos was captured in recordings of calls made to police, released Tuesday.
"We just had a shooting at our school. We need to get out of here. Oh, my god," one crying female caller told a dispatcher.
Another caller, a male student, instantly identified the gunman as Thomas Lane, a student, and said he appeared to be shooting at random.
"What was his beef with these kids? Do we know?" the dispatcher asked.
"I have no idea," the caller said, adding: "He's very quiet and he doesn't really talk to anyone."
AP writers Dan Sewell in Cincinnati, Ohio; Julie Carr Smyth, Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio, and photographer Mark Duncan in Chardon contributed to this report.