The Times West Virginian

January 11, 2013

Student shot at rural California high school

By Tracie Cone
Associated Press

TAFT, Calif. — A 16-year-old student armed with a shotgun walked into class in a rural California high school on Thursday and shot one student, fired at another and missed, and then was talked into surrendering by a teacher and another staff member, officials said.

The teen victim was in critical but stable condition, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood told a press conference. The sheriff said the teacher at Taft Union High School suffered a minor pellet wound to the head and declined treatment.

The gunman had as many as 20 rounds of ammunition in his pocket, the sheriff said.

When the shots were fired, the teacher tried to get the more than two dozen students out a back door and also engaged the shooter in conversation to distract him, Youngblood said. A campus supervisor responding to a call of shots fired also began talking to the gunman.

“They talked him into putting that shotgun down. He in fact told the teacher, ‘I don’t want to shoot you,’ and named the person that he wanted to shoot,” Youngblood said.

“The heroics of these two people goes without saying. ... They could have just as easily ... tried to get out of the classroom and left students and they didn’t,” the sheriff said. “They knew not to let him leave the classroom with that shotgun.”

The shooter didn’t show up for first period then interrupted the class of 28 students.

Investigators had not yet had a chance to interview the student and so had no immediate word on a motive or whether the attacker had a previous disciplinary record. Nor did they know where he got the shotgun.

The wounded student was flown to a hospital in Bakersfield. Officials said a female student was hospitalized with possible hearing damage because the shotgun was fired close to her ear, and another girl received minor injuries during the scramble to flee when she fell over a table.

Officials said there’s usually an armed officer on campus, but the person wasn’t there because he was snowed in. Taft police officers arrived within 60 seconds of first reports.  

The shooting occurred at the school in Taft, a community of fewer than 10,000 people amid oil and natural gas production fields about 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The attack came less than a month after a gunman massacred 20 children and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., then killed himself.