ST. LOUIS -- An eighth-grade boy who began firing a gun during study hall, killing one boy and seriously wounding another before killing himself, 'knew exactly what he was doing' because he left a note detailing his plans, police say.
Investigators initially speculated that David F. Lawler was firing at random when he pulled two handguns during a study hall at Parkway South Junior High Thursday in the unincorporated village of Manchester and began firing. Lawler and one boy were killed and another seriously wounded.
That theory changed when a three-page, handwritten suicide note was discovered Friday, tucked in one of Lawler's textbooks, detectives said.
'This thing was planned,' said one investigator. 'He knew exactly what he was doing.'
'The only thing I can tell you is we all have a a breaking point and maybe his breaking point was yesterday,' said Lt. Richard O'Connor who leads the investigation for the St. Louis County Police Department.
Mark Gartland of the county police refused to release the text of the note, but said it revealed Lawler planned to shoot himself.
'The note indicated the boy was under a lot of pressure,' Gartland said.
The textbook was found in a blue satin gym bag Lawler had been seen carrying at the school for several days. Other students reported he never let the bag out of his sight.
Also in the bag were a .22-caliber automatic pistol, a .22-caliber revolver, 100 rounds of ammunition and a large sheath knife. Lawler's parents told police the guns were owned by the family, but they were unaware they had been removed from the house.
Investigators would not say whether the two classmates were mentioned by name in the note, but did say it appeared they were the intended targets.
'It indicates that direction,' a detective said.
Police said Lawler had an argument with Randall A. Koger, 15, the day before the shooting. Koger was struck in the chest by a bullet that pierced his heart. He was pronounced dead at St. John's Mercy Medical Center.
Greg Palmer, also 15, was struck in the side and was in serious condition at St. Joseph Hospital in Kirkwood.
Police said Lawler may have overheard Koger and Palmer making disparaging remarks about Lawler's older brother, Ken, during the study hall.
Lawler pulled a gun from his bag, jumped up from his desk and shouted, 'I'm not going to put up with you talking about my brother anymore!'
After firing an undetermined number of shots, Lawler walked toward the door of the classroom, then shot himself in the head in front of a teacher and 25 other students. He died instantly.
'Nothing seems to be obvious as to what might have motivated him,' principal Don Senti said of Lawler. The principal said Lawler had done 'quite good' in an algebra test taken in the class prior to the study hall.
'He was not the shy, left-out type,' Senti added. 'He wasn't a scapegoat. He wasn't a loner.'
Friends said Lawler was a 'typical 14-year-old' who belonged to the Cub Scouts and liked to play video games and ride bikes and skateboards.