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Taft High School shooter had been bullied - classmates

January 10, 2013 12:50:53 AM PST
Authorities say a 16-year-old student walked onto the campus of Taft High School in Kern County on Thursday intending to shoot two students.

The suspect had not shown up for school, and then halfway through his first class on the second floor of the science building, he showed up armed with a 12-gauge shotgun at about 9 a.m. Police say he shot a 16-year-old student, who remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition.

The suspect then tried to shoot another student but missed. According to Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, he had numerous rounds in his pocket.

The teacher in the room, who was trying to evacuate the classroom of about two dozen students, began engaging the suspect in conversation. The sheriff said at one point, the shooter told the teacher, "I don't want to shoot you" and named the person he wanted to shoot. A campus supervisor also joined the conversation, and they were able to get the young man to put the shotgun down.

Officers arrived and took the suspect into custody by 9:20 a.m. A shotgun was recovered at the scene, a Kern County sheriff's spokesman said.

"It was pretty scary because I couldn't find my sister and when I saw her I started crying," said student Gisela Torres.

Police officials say the actions of the teacher, who was wounded by a shotgun pellet, saved many of the students.

According to the Kern County Sheriff's Department, officials then went room by room to secure the school. After safely evacuating students to the school's football field, they were released to their parents. Maria Bautista said she was in the classroom next to where the shooting happened.

"When we heard (the gunshot), we had to go under the table," she said.

The teen suspect lives less than a block away from the high school. According to classmates, he was bullied at school.

"I heard he got picked on a lot his freshman year. He was bullied a lot," said student Juan Barbosa. Torres agreed, adding that it was rumored around campus that the suspect had a "hit list" and had been expelled last year.

Authorities say witnesses saw a suspect walking onto campus with a shotgun and called 911, which helped with fast police response. Deputies say they now have surveillance video of the suspect on the campus trying to conceal the weapon.

Youngblood said there is usually a Taft police officer at the school every day, but on Thursday, he was snowed in and could not make it. School administrators say they had an emergency preparedness drill in the morning before the shooting happened.

According to school officials, there will be no school on Friday, but counselors will be available for students, parents and staff. School will be back in session Monday.

Taft is about 120 miles north of Los Angeles.

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