A 16-year-old student pulled a gun from his backpack and opened fire on classmates at a high school north of Los Angeles on Thursday morning, striking five people before turning the gun on himself. Two students, a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, died at a hospital.
The shooter, whose attack unfolded at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita in front of surveillance cameras, survived his self-inflicted gunshot wound and was in grave condition at a hospital, authorities said at a news conference shortly before noon local time. Police said he turned 16 on Thursday.
The shooting victims who survived include a 14-year-old girl, a 15-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. The shooting unfolded in the quad of the school, a popular outdoor gathering spot for students, a place with trees and picnic tables.
“We need to say ‘no more.’ This is a tragic event that happens too frequently,” said Capt. Robert Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “When are we going to come together as a community . . . to say ‘no more’?”
Deputy Armando Viera of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office said the shooting was reported at 7:38 a.m. at Saugus High. When authorities arrived, they found six students with gunshots wounds and later learned the shooter was among them.
They also found a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol at the scene. There were no more rounds in it.
Police said surveillance video showed the gunman, dressed in black, pull the gun from his backpack, shoot his classmates and then shoot himself in the head.
Four people were taken to Henry Mayo Hospital in Valencia, including the male and female student who died. The two other students were being treated Thursday afternoon, officials said. One was in critical condition and the other was in good condition.
Providence Holy Cross Medical Center received two patients related to the shooting, both female students, according to a hospital spokeswoman. The spokeswoman said that one girl was in fair condition and the other in good condition and that both were talking when they arrived. A seventh person was treated for injuries that were not critical, authorities said.
Authorities would not say where the shooter was being treated.
The shooter was identified through witness statements and school security footage, law enforcement officials said. No additional victims were found at his home, and the sheriff’s office is working to obtain a search warrant.
“At this point we have no indication of any motivation or ideology,” said Paul Delacourt with the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
The suspect’s mother and girlfriend were being interviewed by law enforcement.
Outside Saugus High, the scene was quiet except for the thwack of helicopters overhead and the rumbling of idled firetrucks and police cars. The area around the campus had been blocked off with police tape.
Ryan Payad, a 14-year-old freshman, was across the street from the campus when he heard shots – and then heard screams pierce the air. He turned and ran, joining students fleeing the campus. He ran into his friend Adolfo Ramirez, and the two spent time at Adolfo’s house, reeling from what had transpired that morning.
“I’m just shocked right now,” Ryan said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Adolfo, also a 14-year-old freshman, was blocks away from the school when the shooting happened. He was struggling to come to grips with how a shooting could take place at his school, in the heart of an affluent suburb of Los Angeles.
“I never expected this to happen in the middle of A neighborhood like Santa Clarita,” Adolfo said. “I felt protected.”
Two female students told CNN in an interview that they heard five shots – one initial bang followed by four rapid shots. Voices shaking, the girls told CNN that students still inside the school were hiding in closets and texting updates to friends who had made it outside.
Another three students told the network on air that they were by the library at the school and saw a wave of classmates running from the quad. They ran, too, leaving campus through a gate and rushing to the first house they could find in a nearby neighborhood, the girls said.
They also heard five shots, and said they could immediately tell the bang they heard was not the sound of a popping balloon or a falling binder. They said it was a “gut feeling.”
“It took us a minute to process that we needed to run,” one of the female students said on air.
The girls said they knew it wasn’t a drill because the school holds drills only after the school day has started. The mayhem unfolded as students were still making their way to class early Thursday morning.
Another student told KABC in an interview that she and other students huddled in an office when gunfire began. The student said she texted her father to say, “I love you.”
Saugus High, on a campus lined with palm trees, has about 2,400 students, according to federal data. Earlier this year, six students from Santa Clarita were detained on charges stemming from violent threats they posted online, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Television footage showed students evacuating the school and emergency vehicles responding, with people in gurneys being loaded into ambulances on the school campus.
President Donald Trump was monitoring the situation, according to a White House spokesman.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a candidate for president, spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper live on air and called shootings at schools “the new normal.”
“Our kids are living in fear, wherever they live, they are living in fear,” Harris said. “This is yet again another reason why they are so afraid, that literally they will die. It’s tragic in the most fundamental way. It is tragic. It is senseless. It is unnecessary. It is devastating.”
Harris also called for “reasonable” gun safety laws in the United States. “Enough is enough,” she said.
This is at least the seventh shooting at a U.S. school this year, according to a Washington Post analysis. More than 233,000 schoolchildren have been exposed to gun violence in their schools since the shooting at Columbine High in Colorado in 1999.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Mia Nakaji Monnier, Moriah Balingit, Katie Mettler ·