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T.J. Lane, a suspect in Monday's shooting of five students at Chardon High School is taken into juvenile court by Geauga County deputies in Chardon, Ohio Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Three of the five students wounded in the attacks have since died. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Ohio shooting suspect may have used relative’s gun
3 students killed » T.J. Lane, 17, appeared briefly in juvenile court Tuesday.
First Published Feb 29 2012 10:58 am • Last Updated Feb 29 2012 02:58 pm

CHARDON, Ohio • The teenager suspected in an Ohio school shooting that killed three students may have used a gun that disappeared from his grandfather’s barn, a longtime neighbor of the couple who helped raise the suspect said Wednesday.

The gun was noticed as missing after Monday’s shootings and fits the description of the pistol that reportedly was used to kill three students and wound two others at Chardon High School, said Carl Hendersen.

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He is a retired police officer and former Geauga County sheriff, as well as a longtime neighbor of the grandparents of suspect T.J. Lane. He said he has spoken to the grandfather about the gun.

Lane’s grandfather believes the gun is the same, "because the gun was there the day before, in the barn," said Henderson, 74, who says he’s been friends with the boy’s family for nearly 50 years.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said the gun used in the shooting, a Ruger .22-caliber Mark III target pistol, was bought legally in August 2010 from a gun shop in Mentor, Ohio.

The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said Lane told authorities he stole gun from his uncle. It wasn’t clear Wednesday whether the gun might have been the same one missing from the grandfather’s barn.

The grandparents feel terrible about what happened and have no explanation for the teen’s alleged role in the shootings, Henderson said.


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Lane came from a broken family but seemed to heal over time, said Henderson, who added that the boy began living with his grandparents off and on several years ago. He didn’t know where he stayed when he wasn’t with them.

"T.J. was a very fine person," Henderson said. "Nice-looking man, very friendly, spoke to you, carried a conversation with you."

Another neighbor on Wednesday described T.J. Lane as a normal boy who excelled in school and played outside often with his sister, building snow hills and skateboarding, a family friend said Wednesday.

Steve Sawczak said he never would have allowed his own grandchildren to play nearby if he thought anything was wrong with suspect T.J. Lane.

"We’re all absolutely stunned," Sawczak said. "He’s an average kind of kid."

Sawczak, 58, a pastor who has worked with troubled children, said he never saw hints of what was coming. A next-door neighbor of Lane’s grandparents for almost 25 years, he said the couple, who have custody of the teen, gave Lane a healthy place to live. They often took them to school events.

"They are in shock," Sawczak said. "They are absolutely devastated."

At Chardon High, the faculty parking lot was jammed Wednesday as teachers returned to the school for the first time since Monday’s shooting, with grief counselors on hand if needed. Parents and students are encouraged to return to the school Thursday, and classes resume Friday.

Hundreds of residents turned out for a vigil Tuesday evening at St. Mary Catholic Church to pray and hear Scripture readings, while overhead banners from a rival high school contained signatures from other students showing their support.

Lane, 17, admitted taking a pistol and a knife to the 1,100-student Chardon High and firing 10 shots at a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table, prosecutor David Joyce said.

Lane, a thin young man described by other students as extremely quiet, appeared briefly in juvenile court Tuesday. He spoke little, and a judge ordered him held for at least 15 days.

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