Wounded teacher: Gunman was ‘disruptive’

CLEVELAND – A teacher wounded in a shooting rampage at a downtown high school said yesterday the student gunman was disruptive and was failing the teacher’s world history class.

Michael Grassie, 42, spoke at MetroHealth Medical Center before his discharge. He was wounded in the abdomen last week by Asa Coon, 14, who killed himself after wounding a second teacher and two students.

Grassie, sitting in a wheelchair, said Coon was doing poorly in his class at SuccessTech Academy and risked failing.

“I know that made him really mad,” he said. “He just seemed really troubled, really troubled.”

Grassie said he had called Coon’s home because Coon was disruptive and talking in class, but Grassie was unable to reach the boy’s mother. The father lives out-of-state, police said.

Grassie said Coon came into his classroom on Wednesday, holding two revolvers, said something Grassie didn’t understand and then said, “Now what do you guys say to me?”

“He just shot me,” Grassie said.

“I remember the expression on Asa’s face,” he said. “Anger, total anger. Real hatred. It’s something I haven’t seen on a 14-year-old’s face before.”

Grassie said Coon had tried a week before the shooting to pick a fight with him. “He tried to goad me,” according to Grassie, who had no explanation for why Coon might try to pick a fight.

When Coon entered his classroom, Grassie was working with another student on homework and other assignments. Coon looked at the other student and said, “You, you’re cool, man,” as if to assure him he wasn’t at risk.

Grassie said Coon’s behavior problems should have been a sign of possible trouble.

“All the warning signs were there,” he said. “Nobody picked up on them.”

Grassie criticized security at the school in a five-story converted office building – a lone guard and an occasional metal detector – and said a permanent metal detector would have identified anyone entering school with a weapon.

Grassie said teachers had pressed for years to get a guard assigned to patrol the upper floors that house the school’s classrooms, and he questioned what the guard at the main entrance was doing when Coon entered.

Grassie also said the school designed for specialized classes with 15 or 17 students has some classes with up to 47 students. Any class of that size “is going to cause problems,” he said.

School officials have repeatedly said they were trying to determine how Coon entered the building and said tapes from 26 cameras were checked to determine what happened. A message seeking a detailed response to Grassie’s criticisms was left at school offices yesterday afternoon.

Schools CEO Eugene Sanders said last week the 50,000-student district, with 110 buildings, would install metal detectors in each school and make sure a guard is on duty in every building. He said it could take months to get metal detectors in all schools.

Grassie’s surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Claridge, said Grassie’s wound went from the left abdomen area down toward the lower back and hit both the spleen and pancreas. Grassie can expect to be off work for up to four weeks, Claridge said.

The other wounded teacher and wounded students were released from hospitals last week. A third student injured her knee in a fall while fleeing the rampage.

The district canceled classes districtwide after the shooting and most schools reopened yesterday with heightened security measures. SuccessTech remained closed and was to reopen today following and open house yesterday evening for parents and students to discuss safety issues.