At least two students have been killed and three more injured after a 16-year-old suspect opened fire at a southern California high school, the latest deadly school shooting to hit the US. Early reports of the shooting at Saugus high school in Santa Clarita, 30 miles north of Los Angeles, came just before 8am as…
At least two students have been killed and three more injured after a 16-year-old suspect opened fire at a southern California high school, the latest deadly school shooting to hit the US.
Early reports of the shooting at Saugus high school in Santa Clarita, 30 miles north of Los Angeles, came just before 8am as students were starting the school day, sending law enforcement scrambling to confront the shooter.
Six injured students, including the suspect, were recovered at the scene and moved for treatment at Henry Mayo Newhall and Holy Cross hospital in Santa Clarita. Authorities later said that two victims had succumbed to their injuries.
The fatalities include a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. Two girls, ages 14 and 15, and a 14-year-old boy remain hospitalized, officials said.
The Los Angeles county sheriff’s department said the suspect, identified as a 16-year-old male student at the high school, took a gun out of his backpack and shot five students before turning the gun on himself. Thursday was also his birthday, they added. The suspect also remains hospitalized and in “grave” condition.
A .45 caliber gun was recovered from scene, the department said, and investigators are in the process of executing a search warrant for suspect’s home and working with the FBI to review surveillance footage and social media. No motive has yet been ascribed.
Shauna Orandi, 16, said she was in her Spanish class when she heard four gunshots that she initially mistook as musical instruments. A student who burst into the room said he’d seen the gunman and classmates were stunned into silence, she said.
“My worst nightmare actually came true,” she said. “This is it. I’m gonna die,” she recalled thinking.
Freshman Rosie Rodriguez was walking up the library stairs when she heard noises that she said “sounded like balloons” popping. She realized they were gunshots when she saw other students running.
She ran across the street to a home, where a person she didn’t know gave shelter to her and about 10 other students.
“I just heard a lot of kids crying. We were scared,” Rodriguez said.
Orandi said she’d heard about so many school shootings that she always assumed she’d panic in such a moment, but she stayed calm.
Student Sharon Orelana Cordova told KNBC-TV she hid under a table in a nurse’s office until officers came to get her.
“When I got out, I saw this person lying on the ground … with blood all over,” she said.
‘When do we say, no more?’
In a press conference that felt painfully familiar, local leaders mourned another senseless tragedy amid an ongoing scourge of school shootings, and pledged that Santa Clarita would band together to recovery.
“This is a very tragic day for our community,” the local assembly member Christy Smith told reporters, thanking law enforcement who responded to the incident within minutes. “We are very close knit. We will come together and survive but we can’t afford another day like this.”
“Across the nation I frequently hear ‘no more, no more’,” added Robert Lewis, the captain of the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s station. “When are we as Santa Clarita and other communities going to come together?’”
At a family reunification center at a park next to the school, some students sat at picnic benches inside a community garden and talked to law enforcement as loud helicopters hovered above. Parents held their children as they walked to their cars.
April Dooley, a former choir teacher at Saugus high, said the school had extensively prepared for this kind of tragedy, but she still never imagined it would happen in her own community.
“I’m in total shock. It’s unbelievable. Saugus high is such a quiet and sweet community – extremely benevolent,” said Dooley, 60, who retired in December. She heard that one wounded victim ended up in the choir room where she used to teach, and said she felt a lot of pain for the teacher who replaced her, who was in her first year on the job: “She’s still figuring out how to be a teacher, and now she’s figuring out how to deal with an active shooter. How can one do that? It seems impossible for anyone … I’m so proud of her.”
Dooley said that, as a teacher, she often thought about what she would do if a shooter threatened her class: “We are their defense. Our job is to keep them safe … We are in a choir room, there are things to defend ourselves, a piano we can hide behind. We we were all very prepared.”
Dooley said she drove over as soon as she heard the news to offer any support she could: “I’m sad I wasn’t there to take care of my babies.” She added that she wanted to see the government take action on background checks.
Scott Wilk, a state senator who lives a mile away from the school, and was stuck on lockdown in the morning, said he was still processing the news. His children previously attended Saugus high, and he learned this morning that a friend’s daughter was shot, but is expected to survive.
“It is just indescribable. This has got to stop,” he said, noting that it felt as if the Thousand Oaks mass shooting, which killed 12 in the region last year, was quickly forgotten: “It seemed like that was a one-day story, and it was gone. We have become so desensitized to this, like it’s the new normal. It can’t be the new normal.”
Wilk said he wanted to see stronger investments in mental health resources for youth: “Our most precious resources are our children.” He noted that when he recently visited a fourth grade class, one of the students talked to him about wanting better security.
Condolences poured in from across the country, with many Democratic lawmakers pointing at the tragedy to once again argue US lawmakers should pass stricter gun control legislation.
The California senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris said she was heartbroken and was praying for Santa Clarita. “Our children and communities are being terrorized. We can’t accept this,” she said.
“Another sad example of a school shooting & why students across the country live in fear of gun violence,” wrote the Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, also a presidential hopeful.
“I’m heartsick for the victims of this horrifying shooting and their families,” said the Massachusetts senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.
Back at the reunification center, Kris Hough, a field representative in Wilk’s office who had showed up to help, said she wanted more than “thoughts and prayers”.
“I don’t want to say ‘thoughts and prayers’ or any of that, because that’s not what we need,” she said. “We need this to stop. How many more of these do we have to see before it stops?”
Hough noted that it was such a small community that many law enforcement officials tasked with responding to the tragedy have loved ones at the school: “We all think every time one of these things happen that it’s not going to happen in my safe little bubble here. It’s scary to know it can happen to you just as easy as anyone else.”
She added, “We have all sat in front of our TVs watching in horror as these things happen. Now it’s our turn.”
Agencies contributed reporting