National News

10 Dead in Santa Fe, Texas, School Shooting; Suspect Used Shotgun and Revolver

Posted May 18, 2018 4:00 p.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2018 4:04 p.m. EDT

SANTA FE, Texas — A male student was in custody Friday morning after a shooting spree inside a high school in southeast Texas left at least 10 people dead, the majority believed to be students, and 10 wounded, authorities said.

The suspect was identified as 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, according to a law enforcement official. He used a shotgun and a .38 revolver, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said at a news conference. The weapons appeared to have been obtained from the suspect’s father, who legally owned them, Abbott said.

In what has become a national rite, authorities arrived en masse at a campus, this time at Santa Fe High School, 35 miles from Houston, as students fled in tears. In addition to the suspect, authorities said another student was detained as a person of interest.

The Santa Fe Independent School District said in a tweet that “explosive devices” had been found both on the campus and in surrounding areas.

The school district said the situation at the school began at about 7:45 a.m. Friday, just after the start of the school day.

None of the victims were immediately identified.

One of the injured was an officer working for the Santa Fe school district as a school resource officer, said Joe Giusti, a Galveston County commissioner.

Abbott called the shooting “one of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools. It’s impossible to describe the magnitude of the evil of someone who would attack innocent children in a school.”

— Students described a chaotic and terrifying morning: ‘We didn’t know what was going on.’

Logan Roberts, an 18-year-old senior, was in his first period class when the fire bell went off. He walked outside with groups of other students, who gathered in a small field.

He said he heard two sounds — “like when you kick a trash can” — and then saw teachers running from the side of the building out of the corner of his eye. Other teachers started telling the students to get back. He heard three other sounds and someone told the students to run.

“We didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “It was terrifying. It was scary. I’m saying scary a lot, because it was.”

“There were kids out there running, and he could have probably picked us off, but he didn’t,” he said. “So it was just a scary thing that happened.”

Roberts said that he knew the shooting suspect and that he was in two classes with him. “It’s very odd. I’ve talked to him. He’s a nice kid,” he said.

Asked how he felt, he said: “Awkward, weird and wondering why the person did it.”

Asked about gun control by a group of reporters who stood around him, he said: “I don’t have a comment about that. We shouldn’t control our guns.” Dakota Shrader, a sophomore, said she heard alarms go off and headed outside, and then heard three gunshots, The Houston Chronicle reported. Shrader said she took off running, and then had an asthma attack. “Every school shooting, kids getting killed, innocent kids getting killed,” she said.

The Santa Fe Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Galveston County Sheriff and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives all said they were assisting in the response.

— What we know about the school.

Located in rural Galveston County, Santa Fe High School serves 1,477 students and mixes vocational course offerings like livestock production and welding with the standard algebra, physics and history.

On Thursday night, the school’s graduating class of 2018 had its Sunset Dinner and Powder Puff Game, according to the school’s website, and its varsity baseball team played Kingwood Park in the first game of the regional quarterfinal playoffs.

In February, the school was locked down for more than an hour as a precautionary measure after authorities received a report of loud sounds believed to be gunshots.

“In light of recent tragic nationwide events, we realize that this incident was especially concerning for our students, staff and parents,” the school district’s superintendent, Dr. Leigh Wall, wrote in a letter to parents that day. Before Friday’s shooting, the school was perhaps best known for its role in the fight for school prayer in the late 1990s. In 2000, the Supreme Court struck down the school’s long-standing tradition of school-sponsored prayer at football games, ruling that the practice of delivering prayers over loudspeakers before the games violated the separation of church and state.

In 2015, the student body was 80 percent white, 17 percent Hispanic and 19 percent low-income, according to the nonprofit GreatSchools, citing data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Last weekend was prom, where a strict dress code was enforced, and in two weeks, May 31, the school year is scheduled to end with an early dismissal.

Giusti, who represents an area that includes Santa Fe, said that the school district completed active shooter training at its schools last summer. He said that the district had additional training after the Parkland shooting. After Parkland, the school received several threats that the district investigated and found not to be credible.

A teacher also thought she heard a gunshot near the campus during school not long after Parkland. But Giusti said there was no indication that those episodes were related to the shooting Friday.

— ‘In this little town, you wouldn’t think something like this could happen,’ said a neighbor.

Several hours after the shooting in Santa Fe, a rural town between Houston and Galveston, police cars blocked the road off the state highway where the town’s only high school is located.

The school’s buses filed out along a nearby street, empty but for their drivers. Earlier in the morning, Billie Scheumack, 68, was in her backyard when she heard what sounded like a couple of firecrackers.

“I thought the kids were playing,” Scheumack said. “But then I heard ambulances and fire trucks. It didn’t sound right, so I went out front.”

There she saw kids from the high school running, scared and clutching their phones, down her street, Tower Road, about a block from the school. A neighbor told her that some children had been shot.

“In this little town, you wouldn’t think something like this could happen,” Scheumack said.

— President Donald Trump expressed heartbreak and frustration about the shooting.

Trump said his administration would do “everything in our power” to keep guns away from those who should not have them.

“This has been going on for too long in our country — too many years, too many decades now,” Trump said in the East Room of the White House, where he was making remarks on prison reform.

“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and do everything we can to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others,” he said.

Trump’s comments came months after he vowed to take action on school safety and gun restrictions in the wake of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February, where 17 were killed. At the time, the president, a member of the National Rifle Association who has strong political support from gun owners, said he would look at stricter background checks and raising the minimum age for buying an assault weapon, proposals that the group opposes.

He also pressed for an NRA-backed proposal to arm teachers, and said he would favor taking guns away from potentially dangerous people without due process. But Trump did not press for action on any of those initiatives, and Congress did not follow through.