School Shooting in San Diego

March 5, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT


TOM BEARDEN: A 15-year-old ninth grader opened fire with a handgun at Santana High School shortly after 9:00 AM Pacific Time. At a press conference this afternoon, the San Diego Country sheriff said both of the people killed were students.

WILLIAM KOLENDER: There are two people, two juveniles deceased. There are 15 people total injured, including them, and a suspect in custody.

TOM BEARDEN: The school’s 1,900 students were evacuated and escorted to a nearby shopping mall where parents picked them up. They told television crews what happened.

STUDENT: We heard shots being fired, but we thought they were just like fireworks, or just someone playing around with like a paint ball gun or something. The next thing I know, I was talking to my friend telling her about the concert we were going to go to, and I looked over and there was a bunch of guys crowding around some guy on the ground. And all of a sudden, the guys around him started running, and so did everyone else and all of a sudden I noticed the guy they were crowding around wasn’t getting up. And then he, finally he got up and he had blood coming all down his face and everything and he started running.

STUDENT: Complete chaos, everyone scrambled. It was amazing to see how everyone just bolted towards anything they could get to the hide and cover. I did not see where the shots were coming from at first. Then you looked over and you see the kid smiling and shooting his weapon.

STUDENT: Right as the hallway ends, I was in the grass with my friends and all I saw, the bell rang and I hadn’t left yet, and everybody started running backwards like something had happened and I looked in the hallway and there was a narc laying on the ground ducking, and all I heard was pop, pop, pop.

TOM BEARDEN: Narc is student slang for a school supervisor. An acquaintance of the suspect told a local television station that the shooter had announced his intentions over the weekend, but that he hadn’t turned him in.

STUDENT: The whole weekend he was talking about it. And me and my friends were like, “You’re not serious, are you?” And he says, “I’m just joking,” and then he asked us if we wanted to do it with him. And we’re all “You said you were joking.” And he goes, “I am, I’m just messing around.”

REPORTER: So you didn’t believe him?

STUDENT: No. He’s like the kind of person that would never do anything like that.

REPORTER: Did you know if he had access to weapons? Obviously he got one.

STUDENT: His dad has a bunch of guns. He had two 22’s and a couple of shotguns.

REPORTER: But obviously, from the lessons from Columbine, you go tell somebody, but you didn’t believe him?

STUDENT: I didn’t want him to get in trouble, I didn’t think he was going to do it.

TOM BEARDEN: At the White House this afternoon, President Bush reacted.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I want to say how saddened we all are to know that two students lost their lives in Southern California, others have been injured in a disgraceful act of cowardice. When America teaches its children right from wrong and teaches values to respect life, values that respect life in our country, our country will be better off. Our hearts go out and our prayers go out to the parents and the teachers and the children whose lives have been completely turned upside down right now.

TOM BEARDEN: Late today, a sheriff’s deputy told reporters what he found when he arrived on the scene.

AL PEREZ: We were at the corner, my partner, Pat Burne, was over here, ended up getting eyes on the suspect — giving him, you know, giving him instructions, drop your weapon, drop your weapon, drop your weapon. Soon as we heard that, we realized we had the suspect contained. All three of us rounded the corner, and when we found him, he was inside the bathroom with, in like a kneeling position with his hands out like this, but he had the butt of the gun sitting like this. And he drops it, and he surrendered. Now when we made entry, my partner Jack Smith got the gun out of his hands’ reach, Officer Clark at that point started giving the suspect verbal directions to get down on the ground and lay down flat, which we were able to get him, pull him out of the bathroom and handcuff him.

Our secondary concern was that there was somebody else inside there shooting. And so as we were communicating with our partners, check for additional suspects if there’s a second shooter, that the young man on the ground turned to me and he looked around and he said, “It’s only me.” And at that point, you know, it lightened the load a little bit, but we still weren’t sure and we still had a lot of work to do and we still had to evacuate students. And we took the young man into custody, and… and thankfully, you know, we did it as quick as humanly possible without any injury to myself or my partners.

TOM BEARDEN: Counseling sessions were held for students and parents today. Santana High will be closed tomorrow.