People who knew the 16-year-old boy suspected of killing two students in a burst of gunfire at a high school outside Los Angeles described him as a quiet, smart kid who they’d never expect would violently snap.
One fellow junior at Saugus High School said he was a Boy Scout who she relied on to study for advanced placement European history. A next-door neighbour who knew the boy as they grew up said he kept to himself but was never threatening.
The boy was taken to a hospital Thursday morning after shooting five other students and then himself in the head, according to authorities, who have not publicly identified him. It was his 16th birthday.
The Associated Press determined the gunman’s identity based on property records for his home, which police said was searched after the shootings, and interviews with three friends.
The boy lived with his mother in Santa Clarita, a Los Angeles suburb of about 210,000 known for good schools, safe streets and relatively affordable housing.
“A quiet, to-himself kid,” said Ryan McCracken, a next-door neighbour who though several years older would play with the boy growing up, including in a backyard tree house. “You wouldn’t expect anything like that from him.”
Brooke Risley, a junior at Saugus High, said she had known the boy since elementary school and saw him Wednesday in engineering class. They were paired on engineering projects during the last school year and he came to her house to work on them.
On Thursday, she couldn’t recall anything indicating he might be violent. The closest she could get was a keychain he had with a hollow bullet.
Risley described the boy as somewhat introverted, though open with his close friends, and “naturally smart.” She said he wasn’t bullied, had a girlfriend and had been an active member of a local Boy Scout troop.
Results posted online from school track meets last spring show he was an unexceptional middle- and long-distance runner. His GPA landed him on the honour roll during fall of eighth grade, according to online school records, though he did not appear on the published honour roll last year.
Joe Fitzpatrick, a senior who helped the teacher in the boy’s physics class, called him a “good, quiet kid” who didn’t miss assignments and did well on tests.
“He just seemed like one of those regular kids,” Fitzpatrick said.
The boy’s father died two years ago when he was a freshman, according to an online obituary that said he worked for a health care company for 33 years as a field service engineer and “loved big game hunting and fishing of all kinds.”
According to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department records published in a local newspaper, his father was arrested in June 2015 on suspicion of attempted battery on his wife.
Authorities were questioning her Thursday, searching for an explanation like so many others.
“We’re all wondering,” said Risley, “what was the motive?”