SANTA FE, Texas — A teenager carried out a brazen assault on a southeast Texas high school Friday, killing 10 people and wounding 10 more, authorities said.
The rampage, 35 miles from Houston, again set off what has become a national rite: paramedics and police officers arriving en masse at a campus while students and staff members fled in tears. But Friday’s attack also appeared remarkably far-reaching, extending beyond the high school and unnerving investigators who did not immediately find any missed warning signs.
The school district said the shooting began at Santa Fe High School at about 7:45 a.m., just after the start of the school day. It was the deadliest attack on an American school campus since February, when 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The Galveston County sheriff identified the suspect, who was in custody, as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old student at the school. He appeared to have obtained a shotgun and a .38 revolver from his father, who legally owned them, authorities said.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said that Pagourtzis had not come to the attention of authorities before and that the most menacing sign of trouble was perhaps a shirt, included on Pagourtzis’ Facebook page, that read “born to kill.” There were no indications that he had a criminal record or any history with law enforcement.
“Unlike Parkland, unlike Sutherland Springs, there were not those types of warning signs,” Abbott said, referring to attacks at Parkland in February and at a Texas church last November. “We have what are often categorized as red-flag warnings, and here, the red-flag warnings were either nonexistent or very imperceptible.”
The Santa Fe Independent School District said in an early afternoon tweet that “explosive devices” had been found both on the campus and in surrounding areas. Various types of explosive devices had been identified elsewhere as well, state officials said at a news conference.
None of the victims were identified. One of the injured was an officer working for the Santa Fe school district as a school resource officer, said Joe Giusti, a Galveston County commissioner.
Abbott called the shooting “one of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools. It’s impossible to describe the magnitude of the evil of someone who would attack innocent children in a school.”
Students described a chaotic and terrifying morning: ‘We didn’t know what was going on.’
Logan Roberts, an 18-year-old senior, was in his first-period class when the fire bell went off. He walked outside with groups of other students, who gathered in a small field.
He said he heard two sounds — “like when you kick a trash can” — and then saw teachers running from the side of the building out of the corner of his eye. Other teachers started telling the students to get back. He heard three other sounds and someone told the students to run.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “It was terrifying. It was scary. I’m saying scary a lot, because it was.”
“There were kids out there running, and he could have probably picked us off, but he didn’t,” he said. “So it was just a scary thing that happened.”
Roberts said that he knew the shooting suspect and that he was in two classes with him. “It’s very odd. I’ve talked to him. He’s a nice kid,” he said.
Asked how he felt, he said: “Awkward, weird and wondering why the person did it.”
Asked about gun control by a group of reporters who stood around him, he said: “I don’t have a comment about that. We shouldn’t control our guns.”
Dakota Shrader, a sophomore, said she heard alarms go off and headed outside, and then heard three gunshots, the Houston Chronicle reported. Shrader said she took off running, and then had an asthma attack. “Every school shooting, kids getting killed, innocent kids getting killed,” she said.
The Santa Fe Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Galveston County Sheriff and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives all said they were assisting in the response.
A former teacher said the suspect ‘was quiet.’
Valerie Martin teaches at the junior high school in Santa Fe, and had Pagourtzis in her pre-AP language arts class last year.
She said she saw no signs that Pagourtzis might do such a thing. She viewed him as bright, she said, adding he had taken part in the school’s competition for a national history contest. “He was quiet, but he wasn’t quiet in a creepy way,” she said.
She has her students write in journals, and she said, “he wasn’t drawing weird things in his journal. He wasn’t writing weird things in his journal.”
She had seen such things before, she said. “Those are journals I take to the counselor, and they start watching.”
Here’s what we know about the school.
In rural Galveston County, Santa Fe High School serves 1,477 students and mixes vocational course offerings like livestock production and welding with the standard algebra, physics and history.
On Thursday night, the school’s graduating class of 2018 had its Sunset Dinner and Powder Puff Game, according to the school’s website, and its varsity baseball team played Kingwood Park in the first game of the regional quarterfinal playoffs.
In February, the school was locked down for more than an hour as a precautionary measure after authorities received a report of loud sounds believed to be gunshots.
“In light of recent tragic nationwide events, we realize that this incident was especially concerning for our students, staff and parents,” the school district’s superintendent, Dr. Leigh Wall, wrote in a letter to parents that day.
Before Friday’s shooting, the school was perhaps best known for its role in the fight for school prayer in the late 1990s. In 2000, the Supreme Court struck down the school’s long-standing tradition of school-sponsored prayer at football games, ruling that the practice of delivering prayers over loudspeakers before the games violated the separation of church and state.
In 2015, the student body was 80 percent white, 17 percent Hispanic and 19 percent low-income, according to the nonprofit GreatSchools, citing data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Last weekend was prom, where a strict dress code was enforced, and in two weeks, May 31, the school year is scheduled to end with an early dismissal.
Giusti, who represents an area that includes Santa Fe, said that the school district completed active shooter training at its schools last summer. He said that the district had additional training after the Parkland shooting. After Parkland, the school received several threats that the district investigated and found not to be credible.
A teacher also thought she heard a gunshot near the campus during school not long after Parkland. But Giusti said there was no indication that those episodes were related to the shooting Friday.
‘In this little town, you wouldn’t think something like this could happen,’ a neighbor said.
Several hours after the shooting in Santa Fe, a rural town between Houston and Galveston, police cars blocked the road off the state highway where the town’s only high school is located.
The school’s buses filed out along a nearby street, empty but for their drivers. Earlier in the morning, Billie Scheumack, 68, was in her backyard when she heard what sounded like a couple of firecrackers.
“I thought the kids were playing,” Scheumack said. “But then, I heard ambulances and fire trucks. It didn’t sound right, so I went out front.”
There, she saw kids from the high school running, scared and clutching their phones, down her street, Tower Road, about a block from the school. A neighbor told her that some children had been shot.
President Donald Trump expressed heartbreak and frustration about the shooting.
Trump said his administration would do “everything in our power” to keep guns away from those who should not have them.
“This has been going on for too long in our country — too many years, too many decades now,” Trump said in the East Room of the White House, where he was making remarks on prison reform.