Santa Clarita: California High school shooting leaves 2 students dead, multiple injured
A 16-year-old boy marked his birthday by pulling a semiautomatic handgun from his backpack and opening fire on his classmates at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita Thursday morning. He killed one boy and one girl before turning the gun on himself, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
After the shooting, authorities engaged in an intensive search for the gunman, not realizing immediately that he was among the six people wounded.
A teenage gunman opened fire at a Southern California high school Thursday morning, killing two students and wounding three others, before shooting himself in the head, officials said.
The suspect, whom authorities described as an Asian male and who turned 16 Thursday, was in “grave” condition at a hospital, Los Angeles County authorities said.
Multiple law enforcement sources told NBC News the suspected shooter was identified as 16-year-old Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow.
The students who died were a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. All of the victims and the suspect attended Saugus High School in Santa Clarita.
Three other students — two girls, 14 and 15, and a 14-year-old boy — were also shot in the school’s quad before classes began Thursday, officials said.
“I hate to have Saugus be added to the names of Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook, but it’s a reality that affects us all throughout the nation, something we’re going to have to deal with,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news conference after finding out the second student had died.
First responders arrived at the school within two minutes of the initial report of the shooting just after 7:30 a.m., Villanueva said.
A .45 semi-automatic pistol with no bullets left in it was recovered from the scene, and investigators were obtaining a search warrant for the suspect’s home. They were also interviewing his girlfriend and his mother.
Investigators said they believed the shooter acted alone, and had not determined a motive.
Authorities searched for the suspect after the shooting, not immediately realizing that he was one of the six people wounded.
“If you live in neighborhoods anywhere near Saugus High, PLEASE LOCK DOORS and stay inside,” the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet before the suspect was identified. “If you see suspect, male dark clothing, in backyards, etc. CALL 911.”
“Parents, deputies are on scene everywhere protecting your children,” the sheriff’s office said.
ADVISORY: Police activity at Saugus High. **** AVOID AREA ****
— SCV Sheriff (@SCVSHERIFF) November 14, 2019
The Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s office tweeted just before 8 a.m. that the public should avoid the area of Saugus High School, about 40 miles north of Los Angeles. Minutes later, the office said people were reporting that shots had been fired at the school.
One student, Sharon Orelana Cordova, told NBC Los Angeles that she was doing homework when she saw people running so she started running, too. “When I got out, I saw this person lying down on the ground, and I saw blood all over. It was really scary, I was really, really scared. I didn’t know what was going on,” she said.
Saugus was placed on lockdown as were neighboring elementary schools and all of the schools in Saugus’ William S. Hart Union High School District, officials said.
Aerial video showed students with their hands raised, being escorted by deputies away from the school of about 2,300 students, NBC Los Angeles reported. They were transported from the campus on school buses with armed deputies on board.
An area was set up for parents to reunify with their children at a park about 3 miles from the school.
A statement from Mike Kuhlman, deputy superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District, said school officials were “in the process of formulating a plan to care for our school and our community — and will continue sharing updates as we learn more — including the plan for the days ahead.”
“Our hearts go out to the families of those affected by this terrible incident. Words are insufficient in times such as these,” the statement said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom mentioned a stalled bill on universal background checks for gun sales on Twitter Thursday, adding that President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “sicken” him.
“260 days of McConnell and Trump doing NOTHING while America continues to mourn,” Newsom said. “To bury loved ones. To witness our neighbors, friends, and children gunned down at our malls, churches, and schools.“
Santa Clarita shooting: Desperate father uses Find My iPhone app to locate son
“I’m OK,” the text read, “don’t worry.”
When the message arrived from his son at 8:02 a.m., Joy Songcuan didn’t know what he was talking about.
Then another message came: “There’s a shooting.” Even though he knew his son, Karl, a freshman, was alive, the next hours were long and anxiety-filled.
By noon Thursday, long after most Saugus High School students had returned to Central Park and sprinted into their parents’ arms, Songcuan was still waiting.
Using his Find My iPhone app, he tracked his son, who he could see was walking from building to building on his high school campus. Songcuan pinched at his phone’s screen, zooming in.
It looked like Karl was now somewhere near the school’s office. His son had told him that he was one of about 20 students still on campus — eyewitnesses who were being questioned by officials. His son, Songcuan said, had been heading to his second class of the day, business, when the shooting happened in the quad.
Karl is a “guy of few words,” Songcuan said, and he hadn’t yet told his father much of what he’d seen that morning.
“He’s a strong kid, but he’s still so young,” Songcuan said, his eyes sparkling with tears. “One thing I know for sure — he needs a hug.”
Songcuan said he was already dreaming of the moment when his son would arrive at the park and wrap his arms around him, squeezing so tight that the father would wonder whether his bones might break. Songcuan said he knew the shooting had impacted his son deeply.
The 50-year-old father often texts his son to tell him he loves him, and his son doesn’t say I love you back — he’ll say it in person, Songcuan said, but not by text. He finds it cheesy.
On Thursday morning, after Songcuan texted his son, a return message popped up. “I love you too,” it read.
As he waited for his son, memories raced through Songcuan’s mind. He thought about how, when Karl was younger, he never bought him toy guns.
He thought, too, about the time after his son’s 14th birthday, when he figured he was now older, and he wondered whether his son wanted to go to a shooting range.
“No,” Karl said, assuredly, “it’s a gun.”
Songcuan thought of the victims.
One of the girls, he’d heard, was on the swim team, just like Karl. When he learned that two students had died, Songcuan closed his eyes.
“Their poor moms,” he said.