Two people are dead and multiple are injured after police say a student pulled a gun from his backpack and opened fire for about 16 seconds at a southern California high school on Thursday morning.
Police said the 16-year-old suspect remains in hospital in critical condition with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
It happened at Saugus High School, approximately 48 kilometres north of Los Angeles, shortly after 7:30 a.m. local time.
Police officers were on scene within two minutes of receiving the first 911 call.
“When they reached the quad area, they discovered six persons who were suffering from gunshot wounds,”
“These were all students of the high school.”
It wasn’t until officers reviewed video surveillance did they determine that one of the six wounded students was the suspect.
One of the deceased is a 16-year-old girl. A second student, a 14-year-old boy, succumbed to his injuries in hospital, authorities said.
Two girls, aged 14 and 15, were each in good condition after being treated for gunshot wounds, according to Patricia Aidem, a spokeswoman for Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.
A 14-year-old boy was treated and released from another hospital, authorities said.
The whereabouts of the gunman was unclear in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, leaving police describing the situation as “very active.”
The L.A. County Sheriff tweeted a few hours later that the suspect was “in custody” and in hospital shortly, but provided no further details.
Previously, some American television stations were reporting that the suspect was dead.
The FBI says there are “no known additional threats.”
According to police, upon a preliminary review of surveillance in the area, video “clearly showed the subject in the quad withdraw a handgun from his backpack.”
A .45 calibre semi-automatic pistol was recovered at the scene. It had no other bullets in it, police said.
Police said the gunman appeared to fire at whoever was in front of him, and according to video, it was 16 seconds between when the suspect took the gun out of his backpack and when he shot himself.
The suspect’s mother and girlfriend are at the Santa Clarita police station for questioning, police said, adding that it is his birthday.
A “very lengthy process” lies ahead for the investigation to determine the “why” behind this situation, said Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Police say there currently is no reason to believe the suspect was acting on any belief or ideology, but said that could change as the investigation continues.
Investigators are searching the suspect’s home and Wegener says the sheriff’s department had not received any recent calls to the boy’s house “that would indicate that there was turmoil” there.
The teen’s father died two years ago. Two years before that, the father had been arrested amid a domestic dispute with the boy’s mother.
Fellow students and a neighbour say he was a Boy Scout who was smart, quiet and gave no indication he would become violent. One girl who knew him for years said he wasn’t bullied and had a girlfriend.
One discovery made is the bio of suspect’s Instagram account being recently updated to say, “Saugus, have fun at school tomorrow,” according to authorities.
Officials say it was posted Thursday morning but they don’t know when, and it was later removed, but they don’t know who made the changes.
Police worked to reunite parents with students in the aftermath of the shooting. Some were held back for questioning, as they may be witnesses who have pertinent information for investigators.
Images from local television stations showed people on gurneys and police officers escorting lines of students with their hands above their heads.
Police said “partial evacuations” took place at the school, but a large portion was put under a shelter-in-place order until law enforcement could establish who was responsible for the shooting.
A number of surrounding schools were also on lockdown. Residents in the area were asked to lock their doors and stay inside while the investigation unfolded.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter his administration will continue to monitor the situation and communicate with local, state and federal authorities.
“We send our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those tragically lost, and we pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded,” he said.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave his condolences to families of the victims while speaking to a group at NASA in Northern California, and pledged that the U.S. administration will work to end gun violence.
“This administration will remain resolved to bring the scourge of mass shootings to an end, and we will not rest until we end this evil in our time and make our schools and our communities safe again,” he said.
— With files from the Associated Press