Suspect Seemed Elated, Teens Say Counselors Talk with Students

Article excerpt

CONYERS, Ga. -- Jason Cheek has a hard time seeing Thomas "T.J." Solomon Jr., suspect in the shootings at Heritage High, as the classic angry teen.

In fact, Cheek, one of six students shot Thursday in the country's sixth mass school shooting since October 1997, said Solomon seemed almost elated -- laughing and jumping -- as he unloaded his .22-caliber rifle into a crowded commons area.

"He just kind of had a natural high off of pulling the trigger into a crowded commons area of people that he went to school with," Cheek told reporters at Rockdale Hospital yesterday. "It was like it was some kind of game to him. He didn't seem like anyone angry to me."

While police searched for more answers yesterday, students, administrators, counselors and clergy met at Heritage Hills Baptist Church and looked for a sense of peace after probably the most hectic day of their lives.

"People are not as emotionally distraught as you might think," said the church's youth pastor, the Rev. Sean Nix. "It's just a time for the community to pull together."

Counselors from the 14,000-student system and some hired from private practice met with students at the church. News that final exams would now be optional when school resumes next week did as much to relieve stress, though, some said.

Twenty miles away, at the state Capitol, Gov. Roy Barnes was honoring winners of the Safest Kids in Georgia award. Winners were two middle-school students who wrote essays on bike safety and latchkey children, more traditional problems faced by youth. …


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