A man has been arrested and charged for shooting a 36-year-old Francis Howell High teacher while the teacher was on a run near the school’s campus Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 29.
As of Friday, Dec. 1, Joshua Curtis, 35, was being held in lieu of a $500,000 bail. He was arrested Thursday, Nov. 30, and charged with First-Degree Assault and Armed Criminal Action.
The teacher, whose name has not been released but is identified in court documents by initials C.W., has been released from the hospital and is recovering. He was shot in the back.
The shooting happened around 2:45 p.m. while the teacher was running on the Hamburg Trail, a section of the Katy Trail near the school that he reportedly runs on regularly.
During his run, the teacher crossed paths with a stranger whom he did not recognize, later identified as Curtis. Court documents indicate the teacher “made a gesture with his head acknowledging Curtis walking past him, but Curtis did not acknowledge him back.” When the teacher was about 20-30 yards past Curtis, he said he heard a loud bang and felt something hit him in the back. He fell to his knees, looked back over his shoulder, and saw Curtis standing on the trail pointing a handgun at him. At that point, Curtis reportedly fired two more rounds at the teacher.
The teacher was able to make his way to nearby Hwy. D, where he flagged down the first vehicle he saw. A woman picked him up, called police and took him to Francis Howell High.
Francis Howell High had an early release on Nov. 29, so school was not in session at the time; however, some students were on campus for after-school and extracurricular activities. The school was immediately placed on lockdown and the remaining students were picked up.
When the teacher was dropped off at the school, he was met by a coach – who happens to be a trauma nurse – and a trainer who began first aid until emergency responders could arrive. The teacher was conscious and talking when he was taken to the hospital.
The day after the shooting, on Thursday, Nov. 30, Francis Howell High and Francis Howell Union were placed on exterior lockdown, meaning no one was allowed in or out of the school, while SWAT teams searched the grounds for the suspect.
As a precautionary measure, six nearby school buildings were placed on soft lockdown, meaning there was a heightened sense of awareness and no outside activities. Those schools were Daniel Boone, Independence and John Weldon elementary schools, Bryan and Francis Howell middle schools, and Meadows Parkway Early Childhood Center.
While patrolling the area on Nov. 30, the Metro Air Support Unit helicopter noticed a tent in the vicinity of where the shooting happened. The SWAT team searched the tent and surrounding grounds. Though there was no one inside the tent, members of the SWAT team discovered Curtis nearby and took him into custody.
Authorities believe this was a random act of violence with no motive. The teacher said he had never seen nor spoken to Curtis before the incident.
Court documents note that, when Curtis’ charges were announced to him, he showed no emotion.
Several nearby witnesses recounted their stories. A person fishing in the Busch Wildlife Conservation Area Lake 10 heard a gunshot, a “blood curdling scream,” then two more gunshots. Another witness said he was riding his bicycle on the Hamburg Trail around the time of the incident when he saw someone matching Curtis’ description. Two other witnesses said they saw someone matching Curtis’ description in the area that day.
Authorities found a spent shell casing where the shooting happened. While searching the tent, they found a receipt from “Ultimate Defense” belonging to Curtis’ mother, as well as a “Gun Mate” black range bag, inside of which was a Plano Handgun Ammunition Case.
Conservation agents told authorities they had seen Curtis’ vehicle in the area for the past two months, parked in different locations.
The teacher was able to identify Curtis through a photo lineup.