2 Dead, 13 Hurt in Calif. School Shooting

ByABC News
March 5, 2001, 12:00 AM

March 5, 2001 -- Smiling as he pulled the trigger, a 15-year-old freshman shot and killed two students and wounded 13 other people at a San Diego-area high school this morning, authorities and witnesses said.

Sheriff's deputies took the suspect into custody at Santana High School in Santee, just east of San Diego, where the deadly rampage took place around 9:20 a.m.

Two students were killed and 13 other people wounded, said San Diego County Sheriff William Kolender.

A 14-year-old boy died at the scene, and a 15-year-old boy who had been shot in the head died at Grossmont Hospital.

At Sharpe Hospital, six other people were treated for minor injuries and released. Other victims were treated at Mercy Hospital, Children's Hospital and Grossmont. (See sidebar, below.)

Two adults were among the wounded, but they were not immediately identified.

Sheriff's Deputy Ali Perez said he and other officers raced to the school and found the suspect in the entrance to a school bathroom. They shouted for him to drop his handgun, and he held it up and surrendered.

As the officers pulled him out of the bathroom and handcuffed him, they prepared to search for a possible second shooter.

At that point, the handcuffed teen told them, "It's only me."

Student Suspect ‘Talked About Planning a School Rampage’

The suspect was a 15-year-old freshman at the school, Kolender said.

Alex Ripple, a 14-year-old friend of the suspect, said the boy talked this past weekend about shooting up the school.

Ripple and his friends were concerned enough to check him for weapons.

"We didn't search his backpack, only searched his body. We patted him down." They found nothing, Ripple said.

Chris Reynolds, an adult who knew the teen suspect, told ABCNEWS affiliate KGTV he talked to the suspect to see if he was serious about the plan. He said he was satisfied that the suspect would not go through with the threat.

Several described the suspect as a student who had been bullied by others at school because he is small.

District Attorney Paul Pfingst said the suspect would likely be charged with murder, assault, assault with a deadly weapon and weapons charges.

Pfingst said the youth will be charged as an adult, because California's Proposition 21 requires it in cases involving multiple killings.

The teen will be arraigned on Wednesday.

‘Shooting and Smiling’

Santana student Brad Reed said he saw the gunman come out of the school bathroom, firing shots as he went.

"I was walking toward the bathroom and we heard all these noises," Reed said.

"It sounded like a firecracker going off … rapidly going off … and a kid came out wearing a white shirt and a gun," Reed said.

"When he came back out of the bathroom, he was smiling. He was looking around and smiling with his weapon. And he fired two more shots and went back in," said John Schardt, another student.

Horror and Chaos in the Corridors

Student Alicia Zimmer said she heard what sounded like a cap gun just after a school bell rang. Zimmer said she then saw injured students, and students began to flee en masse.

"I saw a victim — a boy — laying on the floor with his face downward. And there was another girl standing there with blood all over her arm," she said.

Students were evacuated to parking lots of nearby businesses, where parents were asked to come pick them up. A SWAT team was called to the scene to assess the situation and ensure there were no other suspects remaining in the campus.

The school has 1,900 students in grades 9 through 12.

Many students were in shock following the incident.

"He's such a relaxed chill guy, I mean this guy wouldn't hurt a fly. But he did today," said a boy who gave his name as Steve, and said he was a friend of the suspect.

"I cannot believe this," Steve said, beginning to cry. "I just don't, I don't get it. I just can't understand it."

School principal Karen Degischer said school would be canceled Tuesday and trauma counselors would be available for students.

In Washington, President Bush expressed his concern and sympathy for the community, and called the shooting a "disgraceful act of cowardice."

High School Had Faced Outbreak of Racial Violence

Santana High School has had a history of problems with racial violence.

In January, Santee Mayor Randy Voepel convened a summit with local students, school officials and law enforcement officials to discuss complaints of racial incidents between white and black students.

According to initial reports, however, today's shooting appears to be an unrelated tragedy.

"It was not a racial incident at all," said Kolender, the county sheriff.

"We are all saddened by this," Kolender said, "but we will use every resource in this county to help the lives of the people who have been hurt by this incident."

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