As It Happens

Texas student describes hiding in the woods while her classmates were gunned down

Dakota Shrader, 16, doesn't think she'll ever feel safe going back to school.

'I don't even want to go to school anymore. I don't feel safe,' says 16-year-old Dakota Shrader

Two women pray outside the family reunification site following a shooting at Santa Fe High School on Friday. (Jennifer Reynolds /The Galveston County Daily News via Associated Press)

While other students fled to the streets during a school shooting in Texas on Friday, 16-year-old Dakota Shrader ran for the woods.

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.

Student Dimitrios Pagourtzis was arrested and charged with capital murder. 

Authorities say the suspected shooter also had explosive devices — including a Molotov cocktail and a "CO2 device" — that were found in the school and nearby.

It marks the deadliest school shooting in the country since the February attack in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people.

Shrader spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about her terrifying experience.

Here is part of that conversation.

Dakota, how are you now?

Still a little shook and stressed out a little bit. But, overall, I'm glad I'm home safe.

Can you just tell us what happened today? When did you first know something was going on?

The alarm started going off.

I just thought it was a normal procedure, you know, because we have those every once in awhile — the fire alarms go off and we just go outside, walk.

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

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

Me and Ryan, my friend, we knew what to do, but we didn't know who to trust. So it was just us. We brought just us into the woods, because everybody else was going towards the street.

Once we got into the woods, you know, I was panicking.

As I'm panicking, I start to have an asthma attack, and that just makes me, you know, freak out a little bit more.

I'm sitting here on the phone with my mom. I can't even explain to her what's going on.

A man hugs a woman outside the Alamo Gym where parents wait to reunite with their children following the shooting. (Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle via Associated Press)

And did you hear gunfire?

No, I left as soon as I can.

Did others hear gunshots? 

Yes, actually one of my friends ended up getting shot in the process.

Oh Dakota, I'm so sorry.

Yeah. It's upsetting.

Is your friend OK?

Yes, she is doing better. She's in very good condition.

Is she in hospital?


Dakota Shrader, 16, says she doesn't feel safe returning to Santa Fe High School after several students were shot on Friday. (Dakota Shrader/Facebook )

Most of the kids started heading to the street, and then you headed to the woods. Why did you go there?

I didn't know who had a gun. I didn't know who had the bombs or explosions. I didn't want to trust anybody, and I just felt safe with who I was with.

What did your mom say? 

She was very concerned, you know, trying to get words out of me.

I ended up telling her, like, "There's a possible shooting going on. And I just want you to know that I love you, I'm safe, I'm hiding."

And I sent her my location just in case.

Just in case what?

Somebody came after me.

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

What was going through your mind during that time?

Honestly, just scaredness. My gut was just — I just felt like I had to constantly throw up. It was just my entire body just went, like, numb almost.

When did you come out of the woods?

About 10 minutes into it.

What did you do after that?

We went straight across the highway to my friend's house.

The cops weren't letting us [cross] the street or anything, but me and my friend ... we just pushed through it. I had to get somewhere that I knew I felt safe.

Galveston Police officer Xavier Hancock works at the scene of the deadly attack. (Stuart Villanueva/Galveston County Daily News via Associated Press)

And what did your mom say to you when she was on the phone? How did she help you?

She asked me to just breathe in through my nose and out my mouth. You know, just trying to calm me down so I wouldn't freak out as much.

She must have been going through hell too.

Oh yes, she was. She was all the way in Webster going about 85 down the highway just to come get me.

And when she saw you, how was that, when you finally got to be with your mom?

I just felt so relieved at that point. My mom is my person, and that's who I go to. And I just felt beyond safe with her.

We know from other other interviews that we've done that there are, in most schools now, you get drills. You're supposed to be prepared for an active shooter. That you go through all kinds of drills and training for that. Do you have that at your school?

No, we never had a shooting drill. They may have taught us to, you know, get under the desk or take low. But, I mean, everybody knows that.

How does it feel that this happened at your school?

At this point, I don't even want to go to school anymore. I don't feel safe to go to school. 

How can I sit there and learn and educate myself, being scared sitting at my desk, thinking that anybody in this class could have a gun? Anybody could come up to me and just try to shoot me or kill me.

How could they make a safe environment for you?

It all comes down to stricter gun laws.

Are you OK, Dakota?

Honestly, I will be traumatized for a long time from this.

Do you think you'll be going to school soon, going back?

No I will not.  My mom does not feel safe taking me to school.

I mean, people got shot and killed at our school. Who would want to go back to school after that?

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Associated Press. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. 


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