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Gunman kills 10 people at Texas high school

A 17-year-old boy carrying a shotgun and a revolver opened fire at a Houston-area high school, killing 10 people, most of them students, authorities said. It is the deadliest such attack in the U.S. since the massacre in Florida that gave rise to a campaign by teens for gun control.

Suspect in custody identified as 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis

A woman wipes away tears during a prayer vigil following a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, on Friday. (Stuart Villanueva/The Galveston County Daily News/Associated Press)

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  • Victims include substitute teacher, foreign exchange student
  • Suspect makes brief court appearance
  • Students recount panicked flight from school
  • Injured officer in stable condition

A 17-year-old boy carrying a shotgun and a revolver opened fire at a Houston-area high school Friday, killing 10 people, most of them students, authorities said. It was the deadliest such attack in the U.S. since the massacre in Florida that gave rise to a campaign by teens for gun control.

The suspected shooter, who was taken into custody, also had explosive devices — including a Molotov cocktail and a "CO2 device" — that were found in the school and nearby, said Gov. Greg Abbott, who called the assault "one of the most heinous attacks that we've ever seen in the history of Texas schools."

He has been identified as 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis and charged with capital murder, according to Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset. Pagourtzis made a brief court appearance Friday evening, during which he expressed interest in having a court-appointed attorney. He has not yet entered a plea.

Authorities offered no immediate motive for the shooting. The governor said the assailant intended to kill himself but gave up and told police that he did not have the courage to take his own life.

The suspect, identified as 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis by the Galveston County sheriff, was taken into custody. (Galveston County Sheriff's Office via Associated Press)

Pagourtzis has been described as quiet, unassuming and athletic — an avid videogame player who routinely wore a black trench coat and black boots to class. He was said to have discussed wanting to own guns but gave no outward sign of violent tendencies..

Abbott said that "unlike Parkland, unlike Sutherland Springs, there were not those types of warning signs." He was referring to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida and one in November inside a church in a town near San Antonio.

Abbott said "the red-flag warnings were either non-existent, or very imperceptible" in this case, though he acknowledged Pagourtzis had recently posted a picture of a T-shirt reading "Born to Kill" on his Facebook page. He also, according to the governor, wrote about planning the attack in journals on his computer and on his cellphone that police obtained. 

Two firearms were used in the attack, a shotgun and a .38 revolver, neither of which were owned or legally possessed by the assailant, the governor said. 

Law enforcement officers respond to the shooting at the school on Friday. (Harris County Sheriff Office via Reuters)

"It's my information that both of these weapons were obtained by the shooter from his father," Abbott said at a Friday afternoon news conference. It was not clear whether the father knew his son had taken them.

Investigators are interviewing "one or two other people of interest," Abbott said.

A second person has been detained, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

A vigil was held Friday night for the victims, who, though not officially identified, are known to include a foreign exchange student from Pakistan and a substitute teacher. 

A leader at a program for foreign exchange students and the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C., said student Sabika Sheikh was killed in the shooting. 

Cynthia Tisdale, a substitute teacher, was identified by family members as another victim. Her niece Leia Olinde said Tisdale, who was in her 60s, was married to her husband for close to 40 years and had three children and eight grandchildren. She said she "never met a woman who loved her family so much."

A school police officer, John Barnes, was among the injured. He was shot in the arm and taken to hospital, according to a hospital spokesperson, and was in stable condition by Friday afternoon. 

Santa Fe is a city with a population of about 13,000 and is 48 kilometres southeast of Houston.

People embrace during a vigil held Friday evening in Galveston, Texas. (Stuart Villanueva/The Galveston County Daily News/Associated Press)

'Boom boom boom'

One student said she and a friend fled into the nearby woods when they realized what was happening. 

Dakota Shrader, 16, told CBC's As It Happens she thought, at first, the alarms meant the school was having a fire drill. 

"Next thing you know, we hear 'Boom boom boom.' Three times straight. Clear," she said.

"And then you just hear everybody screaming, 'Run, run, run!'"

A woman prays in the grass outside the Alamo Gym where parents wait to reunite with their kids after the shooting. (Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle via Associated Press)

She and a friend ran off in a panic. 

"We knew what to do, but we didn't know who to trust. So it was just us."

Another student, 17-year old Michael Farina, told The Associated Press he was on the other side of campus when the shooting began and also thought it was a fire drill. He was holding a door open for special education students in wheelchairs when a principal came bounding down the hall and telling everyone to run. Another teacher yelled out, "It is real."

Students were led to take cover behind a car shop across the street from the school. Some still did not feel safe and began jumping the fence behind the shop to run even farther away, Farina said.

In this image taken from video, emergency personnel and law enforcement officers respond to the school after an active shooter was reported on campus Friday. (KTRK-TV ABC13 via AP)

'All too familiar'

The shooting is all but certain to reignite the national debate over gun regulations. While cable news channels carried hours of live coverage, survivors of the Feb. 14 attack in Parkland took to social media to express grief and outrage.

"It's an all too familiar feeling no one should have to experience. I am so sorry this epidemic touched your town — Parkland will stand with you now and forever," Jaclyn Corin, a student at the Florida school, said in a tweet.

She also directed her frustration at Trump, writing: "This is the 22nd school shooting just this year. DO SOMETHING."

Texas has some of the most permissive gun laws in the U.S. and just hosted the NRA's annual conference earlier this month. In the run-up to March primaries, gun control was not a main issue with candidates of either party. Republicans did not soften their views on guns, and Democrats campaigned on a range of issues instead of zeroing in on gun violence.

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed "sadness and heartbreak" over the shooting, and said federal officials were co-ordinating with local officials.

"My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to  themselves and to others," he said, speaking at the White House.

With files from CBC News

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