GREENSBURG, La. (BRPROUD) — The St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office and the St. Helena school board held a joint press conference on Thursday, Sept. 14, at the St. Helena School Board to discuss a fatal shooting at a local high school.
On Tuesday, Sept. 12, a shooting at St. Helena Career and College Academy left one student dead and two others injured. A relative identified one of the victims as Vernon Gordon Jr., a 16-year-old football player.
“To the St. Helena community, a senseless tragedy that we have seen on campuses around the nation struck here at home,” said Superintendent Dr. Kelli Joseph, St. Helena Parish Schools.
According to the sheriff’s office, the three victims were sitting in a car on campus near the football field after school before the suspect began shooting at the car. Detectives believe the shooting is connected to bullying.
“You also have to understand that bullying doesn’t just occur at school. Bullying can also occur within a community and with social media and all of the other avenues in which kids can communicate with each other. A lot of times schools are caught off guard. And I would say that that could be a situation here,” said Dr. Joseph.
The sheriff’s office has a 14-year-old suspect in custody. The suspect is charged with second-degree murder, aggravated second-degree battery and possession of a firearm in a school zone. Sheriff Nathaniel “Nat” Williams said the suspect had a 72-hour hearing Thursday.
“I want you to know this investigation is still ongoing. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, but we are interviewing individuals throughout this investigation,” said Joe Chaney, Chief of Operations with St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office. “We are going to provide security, scanners, metal detectors to make sure that our children are safe when they return to school.”
Teachers returned to work on Thursday to prepare for the students and to get grief counseling services. Classes are canceled until Tuesday, according to the St. Helena School Board. A prayer service is scheduled for Tuesday. Additional police will be present on the school’s campus as students return.
“There is distress in the community. And we will work with them as long as needed to ensure to the best of our ability that their emotional and mental well-being is settled,” said Dr. Alecia Cyprian Porter, Southeast Community Health Systems.
A balloon release is set to occur at St. Helena Career and College Academy at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15 in place of the canceled football game.
A press conference with the district attorney’s office is also expected to happen sometime next week to layout all the missing details in this case.