Asa Coon was just 14 when he snuck into his school, SuccessTech Academy in Cleveland, Ohio, with three knives, two pistols, and two boxes of ammunition tucked into the baggy pockets of his cargo pants. Attacking individuals at the school, Coon wounded two teachers and two students before police arrived. It is believed Coon targeted the teachers, David Kachadourian and Michael Grassie, because they had previously disciplined him. Students described the attacks as random, however. As he saw the swarm of officers coming to get him, Coon shot himself in the head.
Coon’s short life had been filled with neglect and abuse. In 1997, at the age of three, Coon lived with his family in Cortland, New York. A caseworker for the Cortland County Social Services Department who was called to visit the home found it to be filthy, with garbage strewn everywhere. Neighbors had reported that Asa’s older brothers, Stephen and Daniel, had threatened them with weapons that included rocks, knives, and a fake bomb. The children were removed from the care of their mother, Lori Looney, after the county juvenile court found her guilty of neglect. The boys’ father, Thomas Coon, was not involved with the family. Stephen continued to get into trouble regularly and was found guilty of numerous criminal violations, including burglary, felonious assault, and domestic violence.
The family was eventually reunited and moved to Cleveland. In January 2005, at age 11, Asa was arrested for attacking his mother, yelling obscenities at her, and punching her in the left eye. He admitted the crime in juvenile court and was adjudicated to attend six hours per week of counseling, attend an anger management course, and perform community service. Coon did receive one-on-one counseling for five months, until his probation ended. He was unable to attend the anger management course because he was too young to register. At one point, Coon made a suicidal statement to caseworkers and was prescribed medications to treat depression and hyperactivity. Court documents show he was not always compliant. Despite these difficulties, caseworker reports show Coon to be nice and well mannered.
Things seemed to have been going better for Coon when he applied to SuccessTech in the fall of 2007. The school had a great reputation as an alternative to the traditional public schools. It had a graduation rate of 94%–much higher than the district level of 55%. Coon was not treated well by other students, who picked on him because of his stature and his choice of clothing. Coon was short and somewhat chubby and dressed all in black, like a Goth. After his attack, students reported that when they taunted him, Coon would always say, “I’m going to get you,” but they did not take him seriously.
Two days before the incident at SuccessTech, Coon’s brother Stephen was again arrested, this time for involvement in an armed robbery. That same day, Asa Coon was suspended from school after being involved in a fistfight. It seems these two incidents pushed an already troubled young man over the edge.
When Coon started shooting at the school, the school principal called a “Code Blue” on the intercom, alerting students and staff of the danger. Many hid in closets during Coon’s rampage.
Immediately after the attack, critics questioned the school’s security. Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said the school sometimes used metal detectors and always had at least one guard near the front door, but students did not have to pass through the detector unless they were going to school district headquarters, which were on the lower level of the building. The district formerly had two other security officers, but they had been transferred to other schools two years earlier due to budget cuts.
- Cleveland school shooting: What happened. (2007, October 11). WKYC Cleveland. Retrieved April 22, 2010, from http://www.wkyc.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=75879
- Maag, C. (2007, October 12). Short but troubled life ended in shooting and suicide. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/us/12cleveland.html?_r=0
- Police Chief: Teen shoots four, kills self at Cleveland high school. (2007, October 11). CNN. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2007/US/10/10/cleveland.shooting/index.html