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Uncle says school shooter was upset with teachers following after-school fight

    CLEVELAND — The 14-year-old who opened fire at his high school had been upset with teachers, saying they wouldn’t listen to his side of the story regarding a recent after-school scuffle that got him suspended, the teenager’s uncle said Friday.
    Larry Looney, who lived upstairs from Asa Coon in a west side duplex, said the two were lifting weights Tuesday when he told him about Monday’s fight with another student and his three-day suspension.
    ‘‘He really didn’t want to talk about it,’’ Looney said. ‘‘He said he really didn’t do anything to start it. He said the teachers wouldn’t listen to his side of the story.
    ‘‘I just can’t believe he would do anything like that.’’
    Coon shot two teachers and two students Wednesday at SuccessTech Academy then committed suicide. All shooting victims survived. One teacher remained hospitalized Friday in good condition.
    Looney, 48, said his nephew was bullied and picked on his entire life and was thrilled that he got accepted into SuccessTech, viewing it as his only chance to escape the beatings he took. Coon told him recently that he was having problems with some students at SuccessTech, an alternative high school in the public school district that stresses technology and entrepreneurship for high-achieving students.
    Looney wondered whether his nephew grew despondent that things weren’t working out at the school.
    ‘‘He really had high hopes because he knew ... this was his best chance, this was the safest type of environment,’’ Looney said.
    He never heard Coon make any threats against the school and never saw any warning signs.
    ‘‘If things aren’t going right, he probably in his mind thought ... that’s the only thing I can think of that would go through his mind that would make him,’’ Looney said.
    School officials were trying to determine how Coon was able to enter the school while carrying two guns — all while 26 security cameras were keeping watch.
    Schools CEO Eugene Sanders was to present a plan Friday to address whether additional security measures are needed. The plan is also expected to address how potential problems among students are identified.
    Despite the security cameras, Coon was able to walk down the hallway of his school with two guns and start shooting. Police were checking the video for clues, and Chief Michael McGrath suggested a classmate could have let him in a back door.
    Students said metal detectors were intermittently used, but none was operating Wednesday.
    McGrath, asked how Coon got past an armed security guard, said he could not comment. He said police consult with school officials on where to locate metal detectors, based in part on crime in schools.
    Charles Blackwell, president of SuccessTech’s student-parent organization, said the position of a second security guard had been eliminated because of lack of money.
    A preliminary investigation found that Coon entered the school, a five-story converted office building, and went to a fourth-floor bathroom, where he changed clothes and took items out of a duffel bag, possibly the weapons, and put them on his body, McGrath said.
    Police found the two guns, .22- and .38-caliber revolvers, a box of ammunition for each and three tactical folding knives, all on or near Coon’s body, the police chief said.
    McGrath said the guns are older, meaning it will take some time to trace them. He said officials would be talking to Coon’s older brother and mother about the weapons.
    His older brother, Stephen, was arrested at the family home Thursday on parole violations, said state prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Lyons. She said the arrest was not connected to Wednesday’s shooting.
    ‘‘Please have respect, I just lost my brother,’’ Stephen Coon, 19, said as he was being escorted from the family’s house. Coon said his brother did not get any guns from him but would not answer questions about the shooting.
    School officials were also investigating how a number of warning signs from Coon, including threats made last week, apparently went unheeded.
    Coon had mental health problems, spent time in juvenile facilities and threatened to commit suicide while in a mental health facility, according to juvenile court records. When he was 12, Coon was charged in juvenile court with domestic violence, accused of attacking his mother.
    While on probation, he threw his court papers on the floor and then rammed his body into his mother’s head when she tried to pick them up, according to court documents.
    His probation officer described the relationship between Coon and his mother as extremely poor, with both using foul and abusive language toward each other.
    Coon was ridiculed by classmates at SuccessTech. He had a tendency not to fight back when teased, but recently got into an after-school scuffle, was suspended and made threats that he would blow up the school or stab everybody.
    ‘‘This kid finally broke,’’ said Christina Burns, who volunteered at a school Coon previously attended. ‘‘He finally lost his mind.’’
    On Wednesday, armed with two revolvers and wearing black jeans, black nail polish and a Marilyn Manson T-shirt — the shock rocker Coon said he chose to worship instead of God — Coon fired eight times and shot two teachers and two students.
    Coon shot himself behind his right ear with a .38-caliber shot shell loaded with pellets. Coroner Frank Miller ruled the death a suicide.
    ———
    Associated Press writers John Seewer and Thomas J. Sheeran contributed to this report.

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