A 16-year-old student armed with a shotgun walked into his California high school, shot a classmate and tried to shoot another before a hero teacher convinced him to surrender, authorities said.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood told reporters that the victim was in critical condition and was taken to a local hospital. The teacher inside the classroom at Taft High School was also injured. Police did not identify the shooter.
“We’re very fortunate to have the kind of response that we had today,” said City of Taft Police Chief Ed Whiting.
Police said they started receiving 911 calls around 9 a.m. from witnesses who saw the shooter walk inside the school armed with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Authorities described a harrowing scene that unfolded inside the second floor of the school’s science building when the gunman walked into his first period class and fired at another student who police believe was his target.
The gunman then aimed the weapon at another classmate but missed. Authorities said he named the second victim before opening fire a second time. It wasn’t clear how many shots were fired in total.
Police lauded the efforts of the teacher inside the classroom who instructed students to exit the back door as he engaged in conservation with the gunman who was waving the shotgun in several different directions, Youngblood said.
The brave teacher and a campus supervisor convinced the shooter to drop the gun. The distraction allowed the remaining students to safely flee. Police believe about 28 students were inside the class at the time. Police officers then swooped in and arrested the shooter.
“They really are some awesome people,” Whiting said of the two school heros. “We can’t thank them enough for what they did today.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-California) said, “I think he saved many lives today,” referring to the unidentified teacher who risked his life so students could escape danger.
Authorities acknowledged that they could’ve been walking into a more frightening scene if it wasn’t for the teacher’s bravery.
“We don’t know what might of happened,” Youngblood said. “This is a tragedy but not as bad as we think it might have been.” He added: “They knew not to let him leave that class room with that shotgun.”
The shooting comes less than a month after a madman massacred 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. That shooter committed suicide as police closed in.
The massacre reignited the emotional debate on gun control laws and school safety.
Local governments, including Nassau County, have held seminars educating school officials on how to handle an active shooter scenario.
Ironically, Taft High School staff held a meeting earlier in the morning and discussed their lockdown process and other steps teachers should take in the event of an emergency, the district superintendent said.
Unlike in the Sandy Hook case, where authorities are still searching for a motive, police don’t believe the Taft High School shooting was totally random.
Youngblood noted that there probably had been a “dialogue” between the first victim before Thursday morning. He did not elaborate on what may have been said. He also said there may have been a bullying issue with the shooter but authorities have yet to confirm that had previously occurred.
Others that were hospitalized walked out with relatively minor injuries. One student was hospitalized with possible hearing damage and another was injured after falling over a table as chaos ensued.
Police will continue to search classrooms and backpacks to ensure there are no more firearms inside the school.
Authorities confirmed that an armed police officer guards the school everyday but was not present when the shooting took place.
The shooting comes on the same day Vice President Joe Biden announced he would lay out his gun control legislation recommendations to the president on Tuesday.