Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Santa Fe High School freshman Caitlyn Girouard, center, hugs her friend outside the Alamo Gym where students and parents wait to reunite following a shooting at Santa Fe High School Friday, May 18, 2018, in Santa Fe, Texas. (Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle)

Texas High School Shooting: At Least 10 Killed in Santa Fe

On the second-to-last Friday before summer break, a gunman entered his Texas high school armed with a shotgun and a revolver, unleashing a torrent of bullets that would leave 10 people dead and as many wounded. The victims included students and staff.

Around 8:00 a.m., the sound of shotgun blasts filled the halls of Santa Fe High School. The fire alarm rang, sending students and faculty streaming into the hallways and stairwells. Once in the parking lot, they formed a single-file line, hands above their heads. Some crowded together outside the building, panicked and tearful.

The gunman surrendered after he was confronted by law enforcement. Officials said the 17-year-old student suspected of carrying out the shooting also planted several explosive devices inside the school and in nearby areas.

The shooting is the deadliest act of gun violence in the United States since a man killed 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida, just three months ago. Like Parkland, Santa Fe — a small city about 45 minutes south of Houston — never had a reputation for violence. According to Gun Violence Archive, the last fatal shooting there was in 2014.

“I can’t believe this happened in my hometown,” one student said.

Others weren’t as surprised.

“It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too,” one student told local ABC affiliate KTRK.

Here’s what we know, and don’t know, about the shooting.

The suspected gunman is a student

The Associated Press and several other news outlets, quoting law enforcement sources, have identified the suspected gunman as 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis.

An Instagram account that appeared to belong to Pagourtzis followed several gun-focused feeds, and made at least one post referring to firearms.  

In late April, a Facebook account that appears to be associated with Pagourtzis posted a picture of a T-shirt printed with the phrase, “BORN TO KILL,” and another of a jacket festooned with pins of symbols from Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, WWII-era Japan, and the dark, horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft.

The shooter was reportedly armed with at least 2 guns

In a news conference, Governor Greg Abbott said the gunman was armed with a shotgun and 38-caliber revolver. (An earlier report by the Houston Chronicle erroneously stated that the shooter was also armed with an AR-15 style rifle.)

Abbott said the weapons were owned by the suspect’s father, and that he did not yet know whether the father knew the guns were in his son’s possession.

While federal law prohibits licensed dealers from selling a long gun to anyone under the age of 18 or a handgun to anyone under the age of 21, there is no minimum age to possess a firearm. Further, Texas law allows transfers of guns to people under the age of 18 who have the written permission of a parent or guardian, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Texas holds gun owners criminally responsible if a child younger than 17 gains access to their unsecured, loaded weapons. The penalties are more severe if the child actually fires the gun.

A growing body of survey data finds that a majority of gun owners do not store guns locked and unloaded.

Police have recovered explosive devices inside the school and in the surrounding area

Following the shooting, investigators discovered multiple explosive devices inside the high school. They also found devices, including molotov cocktails, inside a car and a nearby home.

Abbott said it appeared the shooter had built the explosives himself.

At least 10 people are wounded, including a school resource officer

The governor said that a school resource officer, retired Houston Police Officer John Barnes, was wounded while engaging the gunman. Barnes was shot in the arm and arrived at a local hospital in critical condition. 

Additional victims include students and staff.

  • Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, a level II trauma center in Webster, said it had received seven patients.
  • Mainland Medical Center in Texas City said it had received two patients.
  • The John Sealey Hospital, part of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston said it had received three patients.

“I have never been more afraid in my life”

On Twitter and to journalists at the scene, Santa Fe High students described how a routine Friday morning transformed into chaos. “I watched some girl shot dead right in front of me,” wrote one student.

Candi Thurman, another student, recounted hiding under her teacher’s desk. “I have never been more afraid in my life.”

Speaking to a local news station, a student said her friend had been shot in the leg.

Parkland survivors respond: “I am so sorry this epidemic touched your town”

Survivors of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took to Twitter to react to the events in Santa Fe.

“I should be celebrating my last day of high school,” Delaney Tarr, 17, tweeted, “but instead my heart is broken to hear of the tragedy at Santa Fe.”

“I am so sorry this epidemic touched your town,” Jaclyn Corin, 17, tweeted. “Parkland will stand with you now and forever.”

Fred Guttenberg, who has been advocating for gun reform since his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, died in the Parkland shooting, tweeted, “This has been my fear since February 14th, that another mass casualty shooting would happen before we did anything. We do not need thoughts and prayers, we need action.”

Santa Fe High School students last month held a walkout against gun violence

Students at the high school were among the thousands nationwide who walked out of class to protest gun violence on the ninth anniversary of the Columbine massacre on April 20.

“Santa Fe High School says #NeverAgain,” one sign read.

It was the second mass shooting in Texas in three days

On Wednesday, a man in the North Texas town of Ponder opened fire in his ex-wife’s home, wounding her and killing their three children and her boyfriend. The suspect then turned the gun on himself.

The mother, Amanda Simpson, said in a Facebook video from her hospital room that she had spoken with her ex-husband the day before to tell him she did not want to reconcile.

Elected officials offered condolences and a limited discussion of policy responses

Governor Abbott, a Republican, ordered all Texas state flags to be lowered to half-staff through Tuesday.

Senator Ted Cruz, also a Republican, released a statement saying that he and his wife, Heidi, “are keeping the students and faculty of Santa Fe High School in our fervent prayers.”

Republican Senator John Cornyn tweeted that he had spoken with the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office. Randy Potts, a Republican who represents the area in the House of Representatives, tweeted that he was “praying for Santa Fe.”

President Trump weighed in shortly after reports of multiple fatalities. “This has been going on too long in our country. Too many years, too many decades now,” he said. He added, “My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others.”

At an appearance with Abbott and Cruz, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick urged parents who own guns to lock up their weapons. He also said that schools have too many vulnerable entrances. “Had there been one single entrance possibly for every student, maybe he would have been stopped,” Patrick said.

Abbott said that his office would soon release a list of possible policies to reduce gun violence, including improved school mental health services, funds to improve physical security at schools, and ways to confiscate guns from dangerous people. Abbott also said he would convene roundtables with teachers and educators to come up with ways to prevent school shootings.

There have been at least 34 school shootings resulting in casualties so far this year

That’s according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks press and police reports of gun incidents. Only the February 14 shooting in Florida was deadlier than today’s attack.

The Santa Fe shooting was the third gun incident at a school in the past week. In Dixon, Illinois, a student who opened fire in a high school was injured by an officer who returned fire. In Palmdale, California, a student who brought a rifle into a high school bathroom injured a classmate after firing approximately 10 rounds.