Saturday, 19 May 2018

Santa Fe shooting: Texas governor confirms 10 people dead and 10 wounded

Governor Greg Abbott confirms the number of fatalities in a shooting at a high school about an hour south-east of Houston

People embrace outside the Alamo Gym where students and parents wait to reunite following a shooting at Santa Fe high school Friday. Photograph: Michael Ciaglo/AP

Ten people have been killed and 10 wounded in a shooting at a Texas high school that ended with a 17-year-old suspected shooter, a student at the school, surrendering to the authorities.

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In the latest school massacre to hit the US, police rushed to Santa Fe high school, about an hour from Houston, on Friday morning before 8am local time. Students ran into a nearby field and woods, and took shelter at a gas station after shots rang out. At least one teacher yelled: “It’s real.”

Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, confirmed on Friday afternoon that 10 people had been killed and 10 injured. He said: “[This] has to be the worst disaster ever to strike this community … and one of the most heinous attacks in the history of Texas.”

By early afternoon, the suspected shooter had been identified as 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis.

Donald Trump broke off from an event at the White House and called it “ a very sad day”. He condemned “an absolutely horrific attack” and said his administration was “determined to do everything in our power” to prevent such incidents.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis’s booking photo, courtesy of the Galveston county sheriff’s department. Photograph: Handout/AFP/Getty Images

A woman who answered the phone at a number associated with the Pagourtzis family declined to speak with the AP. “Give us our time right now, thank you,” she said.

Pagourtzis plays on the Santa Fe high school junior varsity football team, and is a member of a dance squad with a local Greek Orthodox church.

Abbott announced an immediate effort to gather state lawmakers and experts together to discuss changes to the law to try to prevent such tragedies in future, including speeding up background checks. He said: “It’s impossible to describe the magnitude of evil here ... we need to keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a risk to others.”

Abbott did not use the name of the shooter during an afternoon press briefing, but appeared to confirm his identity by referring to certain social media postings that had been found to relate to Pagourtzis, including an image of aT-shirt with “Born to kill” written on the front.

The governor said the suspect used a shotgun and a .38 revolver in the attack on his school. “Both of these weapons were obtained by the shooter from his father,” he said, adding that the father legally owned them.

A number of explosive devices, including pipe bombs, pressure-cooker contraptions and Molotov cocktails were found at a number of locations including the scene of the shooting, two residences relating to the suspect, and a car, Abbott said.

Parkland shooting survivors offer words to Texas families: 'We support you'

Abbott said the shooter, who is in the custody of the Santa Fe police department, had told officers he had intended to attack the school then kill himself, but he got cold feet and instead surrendered himself to law enforcement.

But he said there were few “red flags” that would have warned the authorities ahead of time that the 17-year-old was a direct threat, he said.

At the White House, Trump said: “We are with you in this tragic hour and we will be with you forever. We will do everything we can to keep weapons out of our schools and out of the hands of those who should not have them.”

Trump pledged action on gun violence after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February, and held high-level meetings with victims, survivors and lawmakers at the White House. But little action has resulted at the national level to change gun laws, despite a huge movement sparked by Parkland students calling for greater gun control.
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Dakota Shrader, a 10th-grader, told reporters: “We were in class. It was first period. The alarm started going off, everybody went outside, all the teachers were like: ‘Get this way, get this way, come over here.’ Next thing you know we hear the booms and everybody starts running as fast as they can.”

A friend was shot in the leg, she said, “and the next thing you know all the art [class] windows are getting shot, shattered”.

Authorities have not yet confirmed that report.

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0:36 Student reacts to Texas shooting: 'Everybody just started running' - video

Student Michael Farina, 17, said he was on the other side of campus when the shooting began, and he thought it was a fire drill. A principal came sprinting down the hall telling everyone to run. He said another teacher yelled out: “It is real.”

The tragedy comes three months after the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 and is the 16th school shooting this year that resulted in injury or death.

Santa Fe is a semi-rural commuter-belt city of about 13,000 residents located 30 miles (48km) south-east of Houston.

On Friday afternoon, the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence lobbying group released a statement expressing sorrow and anger over the shooting and called for Congress “finally” to take action on legislation to combat gun violence.

Brady Campaign co-presidents Kris Brown and Avery Gardiner issued a joint statement that read: “We are heartbroken today. Once again, children are shot in their school.

“What will it take for Congress to step up and do their jobs to protect innocent children from gun violence?”

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