Cop Criticizes Dead Teen

Students look out of the front windows of John McDonogh High School in New Orleans, Tuesday, April 15, 2003. The school was the scene of a deadly school shooting on Monday. Four young men burst into the school's gym with an AK-47 rifle and at least one handgun, and shot and killed student Jonathan Williams.
A deadly attack in a crowded high school gymnasium left parents and students startled and school officials scrambling to assure them that city schools would be safe.

"It will take us a while to convince the parents that they can safely send their children back," said Dr. Ken Gautier, medical director of the school-based clinic at John McDonogh High School. "People are bound to be worried after something like this."

Only about 50 of the school's 1,100 students showed up the day after gunmen armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and a handgun killed 15-year-old Jonathan Williams in a spray of bullets.

"Nobody wants to be in there after what happened," said Donte Johnson, a junior at McDonogh. "It's big-time spooky."

A loaded handgun was found Tuesday on the body of a 15-year-old boy who was gunned down in a high school gym, according to police who say they believe the attack was retaliation for an earlier slaying.

Jonathan Williams and his attackers apparently bypassed metal detectors at the main entrance of school simply by going in through the gymnasium, schools Superintendent Tony Amato said.

"It's obviously a gaping hole" in security, said Amato, who added that all city schools' security systems will be checked in the next couple of weeks.

About 200 people were in the gym Monday when four young men burst in and shot Williams with an AK-47 rifle and at least one handgun. Three girls were wounded, and one was hurt when she was trampled in the panic that followed.

Police wouldn't say how many rounds were found in Williams' body. "More than enough," Lt. Jim Keen said.

A .45-caliber handgun was found in Williams' pocket when his body was undressed at the coroner's office for an autopsy, Capt. Marlon Defillo said.

"Basically, this is a person who may have brought this on himself, being as he was armed with a .45 pistol in his right pocket," Police Superintendent Eddie Compass said. "When Mr. Jonathan Williams brought that firearm to that school, he opened it up to the type of violence we saw."

Police said the shooting probably was in retaliation for last week's shooting death of 18-year-old Hillard Smith. Police had not considered Williams a suspect in that killing until they began investigating his death, and still have no proof he was involved, Compass said.

Eight suspects, ranging in age from 17 to 19, have been arrested. All faced charges of first-degree murder except one who was held as an accessory.

Although police said the shooting does not appear to be gang-related, District Attorney Eddie Jordan said he feels that rivalries between schools and housing developments are equivalent to gangs.

"I think we definitely need to do something to stop that. Those rivalries are killing off our young people," he said.

Besides the metal detectors, the school has security guards on patrol. On Tuesday, police and security guards searched handbags and backpacks. Counselors were also made available.

Antoinette Johnson brought her daughter, freshman Iashia Nicholls, back to school.

"We're bringing her back to make sure everything is OK," Johnson said. "She was far away from what happened yesterday. She was very much safe."

By Mary Foster