A 17-year-old Lee’s Summit North High School student died Friday morning after she apparently shot herself while inside the school.
Gemesha Thomas, a senior, was found on the second floor of the school, and other students reported hearing a single gun shot, Lee’s Summit police said in a statement.
The school was placed on a soft lockdown after police were called at 7:50 a.m. An early release was ordered, and students were excused at 9:20 a.m.
Lee’s Summit police officers remained at the school Friday after classes were let out. At least four police vehicles were seen in the parking lot.
“Very overwhelming,” student Zoee Fisher said outside the school after students were dismissed for the day.
She said she was in a hallway, one floor from where the incident happened when she heard what sounded like a “crash or bang.”
Another student, Michael Fort, said he had a friend who committed suicide, also with a gun, in 2015.
“This kind of made me go back to that,” he said. “That made me feel really worried and sad.”
At a press conference Friday, Lee’s Summit Superintendent Dennis Carpenter mourned the loss of the student.
“Today, as the district’s leader, my heart is breaking,” Carpenter said.
Kimberley Cornett, a 17-year-old senior, said she met Thomas in a math lab their freshmen year and they become close.
Cornett was heartbroken was she heard Thomas had died.
“She was always really kind to me,” Cornett said. “She was kind to everybody. She was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
Thomas, Cornett said, would be remembered by her smile.
Even though Thomas was well-known and liked around school, she eschewed a social media presence, Cornett said.
“She was a social person,” Cornett said. “Very extroverted.”
The district canceled most practices and events Friday after the incident. The Blue Springs at Lee’s Summit North football game was postponed. It will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lee’s Summit North.
The Class 2, District 13 girls’ tennis tournament, an all-day event on the school’s campus, was not canceled or postponed.
Marilyn Rock was watching her daughter Kaylie compete in the tournament Friday and said her daughter was already at the courts when the incident happened.
“She was getting texts from kids inside the school who were gathering information,” Rock said. “It actually happened across the hallway from the class she was supposed to be in at the time. She was hearing from people in the classroom and imagining herself had she been in there.”
The incident upset her daughter, a junior at Lee’s Summit North, Rock said.
“I think the kids are mainly in shock,” Rock said. “For somebody their age to do something this tragic and within the school especially, it’s very, very hard for them to comprehend right now.”
Rock said she had no trouble with the tournament being played or with the way the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District handled the situation.
“Clearly, it was an isolated incident and it felt like they had control of the situation,” Rock said. “I never felt like the kids were in danger or anything. It sounds to me (that) the school handled it exactly as they should have.”
Kyle Rock, Kaylie’s twin brother, was inside the building when the shot was fired. He said he didn’t hear the gunshot, but he could soon tell that something serious was happening.
“Right at that moment I was more in shock and didn’t really know what to think,” Kyle Rock said. “Looking back on it now, it’s a whole lot more sad than I ever would have thought it’d been.”
Kyle Rock described the mood of his classmates as blue and sad, especially as word started to quickly spread about what happened.
“It’s just that social media aspect,” Kyle Rock said. “Someone’s going to figure out what happened sooner or later.”
In a statement on the district’s website, school officials said that additional counselors were made available for students and staff and would continue to be available next week.
“Out of respect to the family and student privacy, we are not able to share more specific information about the incident or the police investigation,” the district statement said. “I want to commend our staff for their quick actions and our students for their compassion and sensitivity.”