National News

Texas school shooting: Accused shooter's dad believes bullying behind rampage, paper says

Posted May 22, 2018 8:32 a.m. EDT

— The father of the teenager accused of killing 10 people at Santa Fe High School in Texas says his son was a "good boy," and he believes bullying drove him to perpetrate last week's deadly rampage.

Antonios Pagourtzis' claims came during a brief phone interview Monday with The Wall Street Journal.

Pagourtzis' son, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, is on suicide watch at the Galveston County Jail, where he is being held without bail. He has not entered a plea to the charges of capital murder of multiple people and aggravated assault on a public servant.

In a probable cause statement, authorities said he admitted to the shooting.

His father told the Journal that Dimitrios was "mistreated at school" and "I believe that's what was behind" the shooting.

In a statement over the weekend, the Santa Fe Independent School District said it was aware of false reports "about SFISD high school coaches and bully-like behaviors toward the student shooter." The administration investigated the claims and determined they were untrue, the statement said.

Pagourtzis, who the Journal reported owns a shipping repair company in Houston, about an hour's drive north of Santa Fe, said he struggled to get where he is today, leaving his village in northern Greece when he was 12 with only the clothes he was wearing and a spare set of boots.

"This country treated us well. I worked hard and became a shipowner. I had three ships, which I sold," he told the paper. "Now ... our lives are shattered."

During the interview, Pagourtzis wouldn't discuss how his son came to acquire the weapons used in Friday's attack, the paper reported.

Dimitirios was armed with a sawed-off shotgun and a .38-caliber handgun, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last week that the teen obtained the guns from his father, but a law enforcement official told CNN that authorities are still trying to determine whether that's the case.

Sawed-off shotguns are illegal without a permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The .38-caliber handgun was purchased in the early 1990s, the official said.

Investigators have identified the original buyers, but how Dimitirios ultimately obtained the weapons is still under investigation, the official said.

Two school resource officers arrived at the school about four minutes after the shooting started and engaged Dimitirios, enabling other officers to evacuate teachers, administrators and students, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.

Officers exchanged gunfire with Dimitirios before a 25-minute negotiation ended in his surrender. The suspect and officers did not exchange gunfire during the negotiation, the sheriff said.

"From what I see, I don't believe any of the individuals that were killed" were shot by law enforcement during the crossfire with the suspect, Trochesset said, adding he can't be 100% certain until the autopsies are complete.

Dimitirios told an investigator he acted alone and spared people he liked because he wanted his story told, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The massacre claimed the lives of students Sabika Sheikh, Shana Fisher, Jared Black, Chris Stone, Angelique Ramirez, Christian Riley Garcia, Aaron Kyle McLeod and Kimberly Vaughan. Teachers Glenda Ann Perkins and Cynthia Tisdale were also killed.

Houston police Officer John Barnes, a resource officer at the school who confronted the gunman, was among the victims hospitalized.

Barnes was in intensive care following surgery Monday, said Walter Braun, police chief of the Santa Fe Independent School District.

The suspected shooter won't face the death penalty if he is convicted. Under Texas law, offenders younger than 18 who are charged with a capital offense face a maximum penalty of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years.

On Wednesday, district teachers and support staff will return to school, the district said. All students will return May 29, the district said.