Early reports out of Chardon, Ohio, indicate that it was the quick and fearless actions of two men, Chardon High School’s Frank Hall and Joseph Ricci, that prevented worse from occurring as a student opened fire in the school’s cafeteria early Monday morning.
The Associated Press is reporting that, as of Monday afternoon, one student has been reported dead and four students wounded at the high school about 30 miles from Cleveland. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the shooter is 17-year-old Chardon student T.J. Lane, citing fellow student Nate Mueller; multiple sources say Lane is now in custody.
According to students at the school, Hall, who is offensive coordinator of the Hilltoppers, the school’s football team, faced down the shooter, chasing him from the building.
News of the two men’s courageous actions first began to leak on Twitter as students expressed their thanks, saying Hall charged down the shooter, even as he pointed his gun at the coach. The Daily Beast was not able to independently verify the account of the men’s actions.
Seanna Sicher, a senior at Chardon High School, told The Daily Beast that she was in her first-period science class when the call for a lockdown came over the intercom. She didn’t see Hall in action, but her friends told her he was the one who ran after the shooter.
“He’s a very nice guy. He monitors study halls,” Sicher said. “What he did today was incredible.”
Sicher said Hall is a “huge guy,” but a gentle giant. “He’s a great guy, and you know, I don’t think anybody can thank him enough for his courage,” she said.
Quarterback coach Don Navatsyk has been working alongside Coach Hall for five years. Navatsyk was out of state at the time of the shooting, but he said that if what he was hearing from friends and co-workers about Hall’s courageous actions were true, they didn’t surprise him.
“He’s a tremendous man,” Navatsyk told The Daily Beast. “Frankly it doesn’t surprise me that he would put himself in harm’s way. He’s that type of guy. He’s a guy of faith.”
Navatsyk said Hall is married with four adopted children and Hall’s wife is a social worker.
But Hall wasn’t the only one who kept his cool when chaos could have reigned in the halls of Chardon, according to Sicher. She said math teacher Joseph Ricci pulled a wounded male student into his classroom and administered first aid until paramedics arrived. The student “had been shot and was running down the hall, and I guess Mr. Ricci pulled him into his room and helped get him care while the ambulances were arriving,” Sicher said. “We have two amazing staff members at Chardon.”
Ricci was named Chardon High School’s staff member of the month in April 2011. A January 2011 issue of the Hilltop Echo, the Chardon student newspaper, says that Ricci had been teaching at the school for 18 years, and that he enjoys hunting and fishing with his sons.
Ricci told the student reporters why he enjoyed teaching at Chardon. “I came to the realization that I want to help kids, and I have a gift that’s been given to me to teach,” Ricci told the student reporters. “I want to use that every possible day that I can.”
Eric Myeroff is a senior at Chardon High School and former defensive back on the football team who said he’s known both Hall and Ricci for four years, and their actions didn’t surprise him either. He, too, was in his first-period class when the school went into lockdown, and he said he didn’t know it wasn’t a drill until SWAT teams came through the doors.
“Coach Hall was my football coach, and he’s a man of great faith and I do love him to death,” Myeroff said. “He always told us that his line of obligations was his faith, his family, and then the students of this high school.”
The same praise applies to Ricci, Myeroff said: “They’re two of the greatest leaders in our school, and didn’t surprise me that they’d be the ones to react under pressure.”