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Published: Monday, 3/5/2001

Two dead, 13 injured in shooting at high school in California

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SANTEE, Calif. - A 15-year-old freshman opened fire at his high school on Monday, killing two youths and wounding 13 other people, authorities said. One witness said the youth smiled as he fired.

One person was dead at the scene and 14 others were injured, Santee Fire Department spokesman Jeff Fehlberg said. Later, a second victim died at Grossmont Hospital. It was the largest number of dead and wounded in a school shooting since the Columbine tragedy nearly two years ago.

Both of the dead were juveniles, and at least two of those shot were campus supervisors at Santana High School, Sheriff William Kolender said.

The suspect, a ninth-grader, was apprehended.

Student John Schardt said he was in a nearby classroom when the shooting started at about 9:20 a.m. in a nearby boys room. "I looked at the kid, and he was smiling and shooting his weapon," said Schardt, 17.

"It was total chaos. People were trying to take cover," Schardt said.

Neil O'Grady, 15, said the suspect had talked to him and other friends over the weekend about a shooting at the school, but they didn't believe him.

"He was telling us how he was going to bring a gun to school ... but we thought he was joking," O'Grady said. "We were like, `Yeah, right."'

The suspect recently had two skateboards stolen from him, O'Grady said. "He always gets picked on; he's scrawny, he's little," O'Grady said. "People think he's dumb."

Another friend of the suspect, Joshua Stevens, 15, was questioned by authorities because of things the suspect had told him, said Chris Reynolds, the boyfriend of Stevens' mother.

Reynolds, 29, said the suspect had talked about bringing a gun to school when he spent the night at their house Saturday. Reynolds said he didn't think the boy was serious.

"I'm upset with myself for not doing anything," Reynolds said. "I made a bad choice."

One deputy was teaching a class at the time of the shooting and was at the site within moments, Kolender said.

Students were escorted to a nearby shopping center. Television images showed a parking lot full of students and parents milling anxiously while paramedics took away the injured. Classes were canceled for Tuesday and counselors would be available, officials said.

Another student, Alicia Zimmer, told KGTV she froze with fright until her boyfriend pushed her out of the way. "I dropped my stuff; it's still there right in the middle of the hall. It was really scary," she said.

Zimmer said she didn't see the shooter but she did see a girl with blood on her arm and another with blood on her hands and a boy lying face down on the floor.

Andrew Kaforey, a 17-year-old senior, said he ran into the bathroom with a security guard after hearing what sounded like a firecracker or a gunshot.

"He pointed the gun right at me but he didn't shoot," Kaforey said. As he and the guard ran out, the suspect shot the guard in the back, Kaforey said.

Kaforey's 14-year-old brother, Jacob, said a boy they believe was the shooter had talked earlier about how he owned a gun, although other students hadn't seen the weapon. The boy also had talked about stealing a car and going to Mexico, Jacob said.

In Washington, President Bush called the shooting a "disgraceful act of cowardice" and said the best prevention is to teach children right from wrong.

Santee, a town of 59,000 residents, is about 10 miles northeast of San Diego. Santana High, which opened in 1965, has more that 1,900 students in grades nine through 12.

On April 20, 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 23 before killing themselves. It was the worst of a string of mass shootings at schools that shocked the nation.



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