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Texas school shooting days before graduation draws governor’s call for new gun laws

Students, parents and teachers suffered the agony of a school shooting on Friday morning near Galveston, Texas, where at least 10 people were murdered and 10 more wounded. The suspect, a 17-year-old according to media reports, is being held on a capital murder charge. Judy Woodruff learns more from Gail Delaughter of Houston Public Media.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In Southeastern Texas today, in what seems to be an all-too-familiar pattern, students, teachers and parents went through the agony of a school shooting. At least 10 people have died, mostly students, 10 more wounded, and a 17-year-old suspect is being held on a capital murder charge.

    Just as the day was getting under way, reports of gunshots at a high school in a mostly rural area just outside of Galveston.

  • QUESTION:

    What's going through your mind, to know that this happened at Santa Fe High School?

  • PAIGE CURRY, Student:

    I don't know. I don't know. I was ready to — I was thinking it was going to happen eventually. It happens. It's been happening everywhere.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Multiple fatalities were reported after several rounds were fired with what officials said was the suspect's father's shotgun and .38-caliber revolver.

  • DAKOTA SHRADER, Student:

    I shouldn't be going through this. It's my school. Like, this is my daily life. I shouldn't have to feel like that. And I feel scared to even go back.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Students were moved to locations nearby to reunite with their parents.

  • WOMAN:

    Just waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and finally they were leading her out of the school. Thank God she is OK.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Injured students and teachers were taken to area hospitals.

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott said there was one person in custody, and media reports identified him as 17-year old Dimitrios Pagourtzis.

    GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), Texas: He gave himself up and admitted at the time he didn't have courage to commit suicide, that he wanted to take his own life earlier.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    He added there were two other persons of interest being interviewed. Police also found explosive devices at the school and nearby.

  • WALTER BRAUN, Santa Fe School District Police Chief:

    Because of the threat of these explosive items, community members should be on the lookout for any suspicious items and anything that looks out of place.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In Washington, President Trump said he was monitoring the situation and in touch with Governor Abbott.

    DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: To the students, families, teachers and personnel at Santa Fe High, we're with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The state's lieutenant governor called on parents to lock away their guns, while the governor said he wants to see new gun laws.

  • GOV. GREG ABBOTT:

    Beginning immediately, I'm going to be working with members of the Texas legislature, but also members of our communities across the entire state of Texas.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The shooting comes as students were planning to celebrate graduation at that school this weekend, and just three months after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

    Gail Delaughter is with PBS station Houston Public Media, and she is in Alvin, Texas.

    Gail, tell us, what is known at this point about the shooter? Any motive?

  • GAIL DELAUGHTER, Houston Public Media:

    Well, what seems to be shaping up at this point is a portrait of an alienated young man.

    When we first got to the scene earlier today, we talked to a father and son. The son knew the accused shooter well, and said — the first thing he talked about was a black trench coat he used to wear to school. It's very, very hot here in Houston right now, but this was just sort of his trademark, this black trench coat.

    He told us about what happened this morning. He saw the young man in the trench coat, then heard the shots ring out and then students started running from the school at this point. But they're finding some writings this young man left behind. He gave himself up to police, and there is some expectation he expected he would die in these circumstances himself.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Gail, the reporting is that he was using his father's guns. Is that correct?

  • GAIL DELAUGHTER:

    Where we are right now over in Alvin, they have the neighborhood sealed off and they're trying to search the home to find more information about the weapons that were used, but that is the information that we're getting, that he had two weapons that were owned by his father.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Gail, I know you were there earlier today when the families were being reunited with their children. Tell us about that scene.

  • GAIL DELAUGHTER:

    Well, we talked to one father and son, and they told us about some episodes of bullying, they believe, that were going on at the school.

    It just seemed a lot of frustration on the father's part because he had known of bullying episodes and he was wondering if this was what was going on in this young man's life. But we heard people crying, there was relief, some of the students were able to get to the school to be reunited with their parents, other students were on lockdown.

    But I was watching as some of the parents were going in. They were crying, they were on their phones, they were nervous, just the emotions that you would expect when you get that phone call that the unimaginable has happened and then you finally get to hold your child again.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, we know that Texas is a state where gun rights are respected. A majority of people support the right to carry arms. Any sense, Gail, given what the governor said today that he wants to get people together to look at the laws of what may come next?

  • GAIL DELAUGHTER:

    It seems to be at a point now there is going to have to be some sort of conversation.

    It's interesting to see at this point what kind of mobilization we're going to see from the students at Santa Fe High School, if it's going to be similar to what we saw with the situation in Florida. There were protests at the school, along with the nationwide effort after the Parkland shooting.

    And one of the students said, you know, I felt like this was something that was going to happen for a long time, I just had a bad feeling, and when it did happen, I was scared, but I wasn't shocked.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And so no real sense of how active these students may be in the days to come?

  • GAIL DELAUGHTER:

    Well, school is almost out for the year. This happened when kids were getting ready for commencement and their end-of-school activities. They're going to be out of school soon.

    It remains to be seen at this point how the school district is going to act. Are they going to cancel the rest of the school year? Are they going to move forward with classes? So there's a lot of questions at this point.

    I think everyone is just in the process of dealing with their emotions right now. It is a small community. You have 10 people dead. I'm sure a lot of people in this area are going to be affected by this, are going to know someone or know a family.

    So that's what's happening at this point, dealing with the emotion, and then from this point on, we will see what kind of activism comes forward as a result of this.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Certainly understandable.

    Gail Delaughter with Houston Public Media, we thank you.

  • GAIL DELAUGHTER:

    Thank you, Judy.

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