Santa Fe High School shooting

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Santa Fe High School shooting
Santa Fe is located in Texas
Santa Fe
Santa Fe
Santa Fe (Texas)
Santa Fe is located in the United States
Santa Fe
Santa Fe
Santa Fe (the United States)
LocationSanta Fe High School
16000 Hwy 6
Santa Fe, Texas, U.S.
Coordinates29°23′31″N 95°08′28″W / 29.39194°N 95.14111°W / 29.39194; -95.14111Coordinates: 29°23′31″N 95°08′28″W / 29.39194°N 95.14111°W / 29.39194; -95.14111
DateMay 18, 2018
7:40 a.m.- 8:05 a.m (CDT, UTC−6)
Attack type
School shooting
Weapons
Deaths10
Injuries
14 (including the suspect)
AccusedDimitrios Pagourtzis
Charges10 counts of murder
13 counts of attempted murder
LitigationLawsuit against parents of Dimitrios Pagourtzis by family of Chris Stone

A school shooting occurred at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, United States, in the Houston metropolitan area, on May 18, 2018. Ten people – eight students and two teachers – were fatally shot, and thirteen others were wounded.[2][3] The suspected shooter was taken into custody and later identified by police as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old student at the school.[4][5]

The shooting is the third-deadliest high school shooting in the United States, behind the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999 and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting also in 2018.

Shooting[edit]

Video of the shooting location on May 18, 2018. Video from Voice of America (1:06)

The shooter began firing a weapon into an art class at the school at around 7:40 a.m. CDT.[6] The incident occurred in the school's art complex which consists of four rooms connected to one another with interior hallways, and other rooms.[7] Witnesses said the two targeted classrooms are connected by a ceramics room the shooter accessed by damaging a door window.[8]

One wounded victim told reporters the shooter walked into the classroom and pointed at another person, saying "I'm going to kill you."[9] According to a witness, students barricaded themselves in the art classroom storage closet, and the shooter shot through the door with a shotgun. He left the art room briefly, causing students to leave the closet and attempt to barricade the art room door, but he pushed the door open. Upon spotting a student he knew, he said "Surprise!" and shot the student in the chest.[10] Students are credited with giving victims medical attention in an effort to provide aid.[11]

Police officers stationed at the school engaged with the shooter, with one officer being wounded and admitted in critical condition to a local hospital.[12] After shooting into the ceramics room, he was engaged by a Santa Fe school police officer and a Texas State Trooper who attempted to have him surrender peacefully.[13] He reportedly threatened to shoot the officers and repeatedly fired rounds while arguing with the police.[8] He surrendered to the officers after being injured during the shooting.[14] The Galveston County Sheriff said officers engaged him within four minutes, and allowed for the safe evacuation of other students and faculty.[7]

Parents were kept off school grounds during the response to the shooting, with parents being directed to the Alamo gym by 8 AM. Students were then evacuated to the gym and reunited with their parents.[11]

The shooter told police he meant to kill the classmates he shot and wanted to spare the students he liked, so he could "have his story told."[9][15] The shooting lasted about 25 minutes until he was arrested.[16]

According to the probable cause affidavit and complaint filed by law enforcement, the shooter used a short-barreled 12-gauge Remington Model 870 pump-action shotgun and a Rossi .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver.[17] Both firearms appear to have been legally owned by his father.[18] Various types of explosive devices were found at the school and off campus, as well as a Molotov cocktail,[5][19] and residents in the surrounding area were warned to be aware of all suspicious objects.[20]

Two other people were detained by police as persons of interest. One was detained at the scene due to "suspicious reactions" after the shooting, and another was described as being interviewed.[13]

Victims[edit]

Ten people were killed and thirteen people were injured. The eight students and two teachers killed were:[21][22]

  • Cynthia Tisdale, 63 (teacher)
  • Glenda Ann Perkins, 64 (teacher)
  • Jared Conard Black, age 17
  • Shana Fisher, 16
  • Christian Riley Garcia, 15
  • Aaron Kyle McLeod, 15
  • Angelique Ramirez, 15
  • Sabika Sheikh, 17 (exchange student from Pakistan)
  • Christopher Stone, 17
  • Kimberly Vaughan, 14

Suspect[edit]

The suspected shooter was identified by police as Dimitrios Pagourtzis (born October 12, 2000), a 17-year-old student at the school.[23][15] He is charged with capital murder of multiple persons and aggravated assault against public servant; and held in custody without bail.[24] If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 40 years to life.[25]

According to at least one witness, Pagourtzis was the victim of bullying by multiple students and coaches.[26][27] The school denied the allegations of bullying by faculty.[28][third-party source needed] One of his former teachers described him as "quiet, but he wasn't quiet in a creepy way."[29] and had never seen him draw or write anything in his class journal that she found suspicious or unusual.[29] Pagourtzis was on the honor roll, and he played on the school football team.[30]

Pagourtzis's journals on his computer and cell phone, found by police after the shooting, suggested to Governor Greg Abbott "not only did he want to commit the shooting, but he wanted to commit suicide after the shooting, planned on doing this for some time. He advertised his intentions but somehow slipped through the cracks".[31][32]

Classmates recounted how at a water park the day before the shooting Pagourtzis did not show any signs of his plans, and seemed friendly and funny.[8] Other classmates have called him a "weird loner" who "never seemed right".[33]

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times highlighted Pagourtzis's social media presence. On April 30, Pagourtzis posted a photo of a shirt with the words "Born to Kill" on his Facebook page.[34] The Facebook page also included photos of his black duster coat with several buttons on it, with an accompanying caption: "Hammer and Sickle=Rebellion. Rising Sun=Kamikaze Tactics. Iron Cross=Bravery. Baphomet=Evil. Cthulu=Power."[30][34] The Facebook page has since been taken down.[34]

Family statement[edit]

In a published statement, Pagourtzis's family extended their prayers and condolences to the victims and thanked first responders for their assistance. According to the statement, they were as shocked by the event as everyone else. The family stated they were cooperating with authorities and requested the media and others to respect their privacy and that of the victims.[35]

While speaking to reporters, Pagourtzis's father, an immigrant from Greece, claimed that his son's history of being bullied was the reason for the shooting.[36]

Legal proceedings[edit]

Pagourtzis was booked into the Galveston County Jail on two felony charges — capital murder of multiple persons and aggravated assault against a police officer. He was ordered held without bond.[15] Pagourtzis is represented by attorneys hired by his parents.[37]

Due to his age, Pagourtzis is ineligible for the death penalty[38] or for life without parole.[39]

The defense team for Pagourtzis filed a change of venue request to move the trial out of Galveston County due to the publicity of the case.[40] On February 27, 2019, a judge granted the request without specifying the new venue.[41] In April 2019, it was announced that Pagourtzis will be facing 11 federal charges despite previously stating that they would not pursue federal charges.[42][43] In June 2019, it was announced that the trial will take place in Richmond in January 2020 however the date has now been pushed back to February 2020.[44][45][46]

Separate filings[edit]

The parents of victim Chris Stone filed a lawsuit against Pagourtzis's parents, claiming his father did not properly secure his weapons and the parents were negligent in entrusting their son with the firearms.[47] Under Texas law, guns cannot be made accessible to minors outside hunting or under parental supervision, and if broken the penalty can be up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine if the weapon causes serious injury or death.[48] The parents of a second victim, Aaron McLeod, joined the lawsuit with additional allegations. Both families are alleging, in addition to the above, the failure of Pagourtzis's parents to obtain mental health counseling and support and failure to warn the public of his "dangerous propensities".[49]

Reactions[edit]

President Trump's reaction (1:39)
Statements from Walter Braun, the Santa Fe Independent School District police chief (0:58)

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed his condolences in a press conference shortly following the shootings, and said his "administration is determined to do everything in [its] power to protect our students".[50] On May 31, Trump met with victims, families, and others affected, to discuss the event and trying to find prevention methods.[51]

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said, "Our schools must be safe and nurturing environments for learning. No student should have to experience the trauma suffered by so many today and in similar events prior. We simply cannot allow this trend to continue."[52]

Democratic Leader and U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi expressed her condolences and thanked the first responders. She also called for Congress to act and vote now to prevent gun violence.[53]

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a press briefing that the attack was "one of the most heinous attacks that we've ever seen in the history of Texas schools."[54] He also called for all Texans to hold a moment of silence on May 21 at 10:00 AM CDT in honor of the victims, their families and first responders.[55]

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said the design of Texas schools with "too many entrances and too many exits" may have to be reconsidered.[56] He said the issue is "not about the guns, it's about us."[57]

The organizers of the March for Our Lives, from the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting three months earlier, tweeted "Though this is the 22nd school shooting this year, we urge those reading this not to sweep it under the rug and forget."[58]

John Barnes, a police officer wounded in the shooting rampage, was hailed as a hero for tackling the shooter and saving many lives despite blood loss.[59]

Fundraisers, memorials and support[edit]

Students organized a candlelight vigil on May 18.[60] Ten white crosses have been placed in front of the school to memorialize the deceased.[36] The white crosses were removed prior to the start of the 2018/19 school year.[citation needed]

President Trump ordered all U.S. flags flown at half-staff from May 18 until sunset on May 22.[61] Blood drives were set up to support the local hospitals.[62]

Houston Texans football player J. J. Watt offered to pay the funeral expenses of all the deceased.[63] Local funeral homes, florists, pastors offered heavily discounted or free rates for families of the deceased.[64]

On May 26, 2018, multiple fundraisers were held to raise money. One local business sponsored a fundraiser which brought in $257,000 for the victims.[65]

School response[edit]

The Santa Fe Independent School District has an active shooter plan, and two armed police officers that interacted with students in the school. In the year prior to the shooting, the school district leadership made plans to arm teachers and staff through the Texas School Marshal Program. After the shooting, the president of the school district's Board of Trustees said the district's policies and procedures worked, and that it was not the failure of the procedures that accounted for the incident, adding someone intent on entering the school to create havoc would be able to do so in any event.[66]

As a result of the mass shooting, the district plans to renovate the northwest area of the campus, including sealing off the art rooms in which the shooting occurred as well as the adjacent hallway. A new hallway and counselor's office will be installed.[67] A new protection plan was unveiled for the 2018-2019 school year with metal detectors at each entrance and police officers will patrol the campus with donated AR-15s equipped with rifle optics.[68]

Community response[edit]

Unlike the residents of Parkland, Florida, the residents of Santa Fe largely declined media attention and also did not support political gun control actions.[69]

Aftermath[edit]

The following Monday there were five arrests in the Greater Houston area for bringing weapons to school or making threats in the Friendswood, Huffman, Cleveland, Clear Creek, and Texas City Independent School Districts.[70]

In July 2019 it emerged that David Briscoe, who had told reporters that he was a substitute at the school the day of the shooting had lied about his actions. After the shooting many sources including Time, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal ran stories about how Briscoe protected his students until first responders came. In April of 2019, he did a follow-up interview with The Texas Tribune in which his claims included him moving to Florida as he was haunted by the shooting.[71] Upon further investigation by the reporter it was discovered that Briscoe had never worked for the Santa Fe Independent School District, and upon the publication that he had lied, Briscoe had since deleted several Twitter posts about his survival and the media outlets who published his account have removed them.[72]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]