SANTA FE, Texas — A shotgun-toting teenager opened fire at a Texas high school Friday, killing at least 10 people and leaving a cache of explosives in and around the area.
Nine students and one adult were killed at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, amid gunfire that erupted before classes began, a law enforcement official not authorized to comment publicly told USA TODAY. The suspect was later taken into custody.
Ten other people were wounded, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said during an afternoon news conference.
“We come together today as we deal with one of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools,” Abbott said. “It’s impossible to describe the magnitude of the evil of someone who would attack innocent children in a school.”
The attack once again heated up opinions about gun control laws and how to stop America’s gun violence.
The official said multiple pipe-bomb-type explosives were recovered at the school, but investigators were still going through the building. Authorities also found other explosives, including a CO2 device and a Molotov cocktail, Abbott said.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, was arrested after the shooting and charged with capital murder and aggravated assault of a peace officer.
After being read his rights, he admitted to the shootings and told officers he targeted students he didn’t like, according to a court filing.
“He did not shoot students he did like so he could have his story told,” an officer wrote in a probable cause affidavit filed in Galveston County court.
He made his first appearance in court Friday evening, hanging his head and looking down as a judge asked him routine questions, such as whether he wanted a court-appointed attorney.
“Yes, sir,” he mumbled as he fiddled with his hands.
Pagourtzis kept a journal on his computer and a cell phone that detailed the plans for his attack, Abbott said, adding Pagourtzis also hoped to take his own life after the shooting but instead gave himself up to law enforcement.
It’s not USA TODAY’s policy to identify minors charged with crimes. Due to the magnitude of the event and the fact the suspect could be charged as an adult, USA TODAY has decided to identify the suspect.
Pagourtzis was armed with a shotgun and a .38-caliber pistol, Abbott said. The guns were owned by the boy’s father, Abbott said.
Investigators were working on search warrants for two residences and a car, but were hampered by concerns about the potential for more explosives, Abbott said.
“They want to make sure they can enter them without anybody being harmed,” Abbott said.
The school had two police officers on duty, and one was critically wounded in the shoot-out, according to Steven McGraw, director of the state Department of Public Safety. A state trooper also engaged the gunman, McGraw said.
“We know that because they were willing to run into that a building and engage them right now, other lives were saved,” McGraw said.
At least one other person was in custody, but the official believed the person was not believed to be a suspect.
After explosives were found at the school and off campus, police and the Santa Fe Independent School District urged people to report any suspicious items found around town.
First responders received the first calls about a gunman opening fire in a classroom at 7:32 a.m. Witnesses fleeing the school described chaos as they jumped over fences and ran to nearby businesses.
“I was shaking, my anxiety was bad,” Megan Hunter said after fleeing her classroom. “I don’t even know what to think.”
The fire alarm went off during the attack, adding a level of confusion for those at the school and for first responders.
It’s unclear whether a student, teacher or the gunman pulled it. Some students told reporters that students pulled the alarm after seeing the gunman, and one said a former Marine who is a teacher at the school pulled the alarm.
But Tyler Turner, a student at the school, told Fox News that the gunman pulled the alarm. Turner said a few of his friends walked past the gunman, who looked suspicious.
“He pulled the fire alarm so we all went outside, and then we heard 3 shots,” Turner said.
The suspect in the Florida high school shooting in February also was accused of pulling the fire alarm, allowing him to mow down students fleeing the school.
For some students inside the school, the fire alarm made them think the emergency wasn’t as dire. Branden Auzston, an 11th grader at the school, heard the alarm and thought it may have been a fire since they had a drill two weeks ago.
“We go outside and we were told to get in the grass,” Auzston said. “Then I see my teacher and she screamed ‘Just run!’”
He said it felt like a movie and nothing seemed real.
Eight hours after shots were fired inside his high school, Auzston and his girlfriend, Daisy Sullivan, gathered at the H-E-B parking lot across from what is being referred as the Alamo Gym, where parents and guardians are being reunited with students.
They hoped to find Auzston’s best friend, Chris Stone. He said no one has talked to him since this morning.
“I fell asleep earlier because I didn’t feel good, and I thought I would wake up and it would be over and everything would be normal — but it’s not,” Sullivan said, adding in two weeks she’s scheduled to graduate.
Leila Butler, another student, told CNN she didn’t hear gunshots, but just the fire drill that prompted the evacuation.
“We’re all really just devastated that such a tragedy could happen in our small town,” she said. Coupled with Hurricane Harvey at the start of the school year, “it’s more than we can handle,” she said.
TV aerial footage showed groups of students being herded out of the rear of the school and a sheet believed to be covering a body on the lawn outside. Yellow buses stood at the ready to shuttle students away.
President Trump called it a “very sad day” at the White House. He spoke with Abbott and pledged to work with the governor to provide appropriate federal assistance.
“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others,” Trump said. “May God heal the injured and may God comfort the wounded.”
School shooting in Texas. Early reports not looking good. God bless all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2018
The president ordered flags be flown at half-staff.
Later Friday evening, hundreds of locals crowded into a grassy lot next to Texas First Bank for a vigil honoring the slain and injured.
Some cried and hugged, others held roses or white candles. Many were students who, just hours earlier, had hid under desks or flung themselves over fences to flee the gunman.
A table held 10 candles, 10 white roses and 10 bibles for the 10 victims.
“Words cannot express the sorrow of our hearts for those we have lost,” said Leigh Wall, superintendent of Santa Fe ISD.