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Students recall deadly Ohio shooting: "He was aiming right at them"

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:33 PM EST, Mon February 27, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Witnesses at Chardon High School describe feeling scared
  • "Everything went into slow motion ... I was in shock," says one
  • An assistant football coach is hailed as a hero
  • A gunman opened fire in the school cafeteria, killing 1 and injuring 4

(CNN) -- Standing just feet from the gunman in Monday's deadly Ohio school shooting, Danny Komertz has no doubt about what he saw.

The Chardon High School freshman was walking with friends when they heard a loud pop. He looked up.

"I looked straight ahead and I saw a gun pointing at a group of four guys sitting a table ... He just fired two quick shots at them. I saw one student fall, and I saw the other hiding, trying to get cover underneath the table," Komertz told CNN.

"He was aiming right at them as he was two feet away ... He wasn't shooting around the cafeteria at all. He was directly aiming at the four of them," he said.

Komertz was lucky; he wasn't hit. Five others were when a young man allegedly opened fire on that table of students in the Chardon High School cafeteria, killing one and seriously injuring four.

Police arrested the suspected shooter a short time later. They have identified him as a juvenile, and witnesses told CNN the gunman was T.J. Lane, a student.

Komertz, 15, said he heard some five shots -- the last two as he and his friends were running out the doors toward safety.

"I was very scared of what was going to happen so I didn't look at his face. I just looked at the gun and I ran," he said.

Another witness, Nate Mueller, had his ear grazed by one of the gunman's bullets. He was sitting at a table next to the suspected shooter.

"All of a sudden we heard a loud bang, almost like a firework. We turned around and I saw T.J. standing at the table behind us with his gun pointed and firing," said Mueller. "His first shot made me look. His second shot I watched him take, which hit somebody behind me, and his third shot hit me as I was turning away."

Mueller described the gunman as stoic and silent. As he unloaded his weapon, his face was "expressionless," Mueller said. "There was no warning or anything. He just opened fire."

Other students recalled being further away from the shooting, but no less scared.

Josh Sophacak was walking outside the cafeteria when the first shot fired.

"It sounded like a firecracker ... I paused and everything went into slow motion from there. I guess I was in shock," he said.

Yet for all the misery caused by Monday's shooting, witnesses have also described the makings of a hero.

Assistant football coach and study hall teacher Frank Hall chased the gunman out of the school, they said.

"Coach Hall, he always talks about how much he cares about us students, his team and everyone. And I think today he really went out and he proved how much he cared about us. He would take a bullet for us," said Neil Thomas, a student.

Thomas was in Spanish class when the gunshots started. An administrator came over an intercom system to announce a lock down, he said, sending teachers and students scurrying to the corners of rooms for cover.

Sophacak similarly hailed the coach as "heroic."

Indeed, if not for Hall's quick response and the readiness of the school, which drills students on what to do in emergencies, Monday's death toll may have been much higher.

"As bad as it was already, I think it could have been a lot worse," said Evan Erasmus, a Chardon senior.

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