A 16-year-old student armed with a shotgun walked into class in a rural California high school on Thursday and shot one student, fired at another but missed, and then was talked into surrendering by a teacher and another staff member, officials said.
The teen victim was in critical but stable condition, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood told a press conference. The sheriff said the teacher suffered a minor pellet wound to the head but declined treatment.Taft, Calif.
When the shots were fired in the Taft, Calif. school, the teacher began trying to get the more than two dozen students out a back door and engaged the shooter in conversation to distract him, Youngblood said. A campus supervisor responding to a call about shots fired also began talking to the armed student.
"They talked him into putting the shotgun down," Youngblood said.
The sheriff said that at one point, the shooter told the teacher, "I don't want to shoot you," and named the person he wanted to shoot.
The shooter may have had up to 20 shotgun rounds in his pockets, he said.
Officials said there's usually an armed officer on campus but the person wasn't there because he was snowed in. Taft police officers arrived within 60 seconds of first reports.
As word spread, Dayna Hopper rushed to the school to pick up her son, Joseph Sorensen, 16, and daughter, Cheryle Pryor, 15, who had called from Cheryle's cellphone.
"I panicked. I wanted to puke and just get here," the mother told the Bakersfield Californian.
'I panicked. I wanted to puke and just get here.' —Dayna Hopper, mother of 2 students at the school
KERO-TV Bakersfield reported that the station received phone calls from people inside the school who hid in closets.
The bell had just rung at a nearby school when teachers began shouting for students to get inside buildings, and the principal used an intercom to tell students to stay inside, Felicity Reich, 13, a student at Lincoln Junior High School, told the newspaper.
Shaken, she held the hand of her mother, Ellie Reich, as she spoke.
The student who was shot at the high school was flown to a hospital in Bakersfield, said Ray Pruitt, spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff's Department. There was no immediate word on the victim's condition.
Another person suffered some type of injuries in the incident but refused medical attention, Kern County Fire Department spokesman Eric Coughran told KBAK-TV.
It was not immediately clear how many students are enrolled at the high school, which has Grade 9 to Grade 12 students.
Masses of parents headed to the school football field to find their children, and officials at other schools took action to protect their students as well, the newspaper said.
The Taft shooting occurred less than a month after a gunman massacred 20 children and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., then killed himself.
'It really is just another very sad moment as we deal with the ongoing reality of gun violence that has captured so much of our attention this last year.' —John Perez, politician
That shooting prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to promise new efforts to curb gun violence. Vice-President Joe Biden, who was put in charge of the initiative, said he would deliver new policy proposals to the president by next week.
At the state Capitol, Assembly Speaker John Perez, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said the thoughts and prayers of legislators were with the people at the Taft school.
"It really is just another very sad moment as we deal with the ongoing reality of gun violence that has captured so much of our attention this last year," Perez said.