ST. LOUIS — Manfret McGhee ran for his life after a bullet missed him in the hallway at the school where he teaches, and huddled inside a bathroom and listened as more gunshots went off.
McGhee, the Dean of Arts at the high school on the city’s south side, didn't yet know one of them had struck his son, Anthony.
Anthony, 16, was in health class while his father was finishing up a meeting Monday morning. The elder McGhee heard an announcement about an active shooter in the building where he has taught for more than 13 years.
“I stepped into the hallway to find out a little more about what was going on and at that moment the shooter was in the hallway and fired a shot at myself and another coworker,” McGhee said.
McGhee spoke with 5 On Your Side just 20 minutes after his son got out of surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital shortly before 8 p.m., saying that he believed it was important for the community to know how the first responders and St. Louis Public Schools staff acted quickly and swiftly and saved lives.
“In most of the tragedies I’ve seen play out on TV in many parts of the country, their outcomes have been much more severe than our outcome. I need to let everyone know that St. Louis Public Schools and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s response time was crucial to this not being worse than it was,” he said. “What I saw today was not normally what I have seen in these situations.
“The quickness of the response was crucial.”
McGhee said when he heard the announcement about the active shooter, he ran for cover. All he could think about was his youngest son.
He didn’t have a cellphone with him as he hid inside a bathroom, so all he could do was listen as more gunshots were fired and first responders swept the building.
McGhee felt safe enough to come out and was told his son had been shot. He ran to the second floor classroom where he knew his son would be in class at that hour.
“When I first saw him, I saw a massive hole in his pant leg and all I could think of was, ‘My God, what did he get shot with?’” he said. “I wore a suit to work this morning, so I took my belt off to stop some of the bleeding.”
He said his son told him what happened.
“They were in the classroom, and that the classroom was locked per our policy and the shooter shot some glass out on the door, reached in and unlocked the door, came in the room and started firing rounds in the room,” McGhee said of his son’s recollection. “My son did not jump out the window, but he helped some students get out of the window.”
McGhee said he felt himself begin to get overwhelmed with emotion when he saw the fear in his son’s eyes while his son was laying on a stretcher getting ready to go in an ambulance.
“But I had to hold it together for him, I had to be strong for him,” McGhee said.
Police identified the shooter as 19-year-old Orlando Harris. He graduated from the school in 2021.
McGhee said he remembered Harris.
“He was a somewhat quiet student, kind of like a gamer. He was into video games,” he said.
When asked if he was surprised to learn Harris was the shooter, he said only that he was surprised the shooting happened at all.
He said he worked with teacher Jean Kuczka, who was shot and killed Monday.
“She had worked there longer than I had, and I’ve known her all this time,” McGhee said. “I just saw her Monday morning on her way in to work.
“She was a beautiful soul. ... A wonderful soul.”