Ten people, mostly students, were killed when a teenage classmate armed with a shotgun and a revolver opened fire in a Texas high school Friday, the latest deadly school shooting to hit the United States.
The gunman, arrested on murder charges, was identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old junior at Santa Fe High School. He is being held on capital murder charges, meaning he could face the death penalty.
Governor Greg Abbott said 10 people died and another 10 were wounded in “one of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools.”
“Nothing can prepare a parent for the loss of a child,” Abbott told reporters in Santa Fe, located about 30 miles southeast of Houston.
Abbott said the gunman apparently carried out the attack with a shotgun and a .38 revolver that were legally owned by his father.
The Houston Chronicle said Pagourtzis also threw pipe bombs into a classroom at the start of the school day.
But with gun reform a divisive issue in the United States, Abbott focused on the need to better address mental health concerns and to arm schools, rather than call for limits on the proliferation of weapons.
At dusk, hundreds of people, including many children, turned out for a candlelight vigil as the community sought to cope with the tragedy.
People prayed and sang “Amazing Grace,” tears streaming down some faces. There were hugs, and dogs providing emotional support.
Abbott said searches were being conducted at two residences and “explosive devices” had been found, including a “CO2 device” and a Molotov cocktail.
He said journal entries by the gunman suggested he wanted to commit suicide but “he gave himself up.”
Abbott said there were no “warning signs” about the suspect, who had no criminal history, although he did post a picture on his Facebook page of a T-shirt with the words “Born to Kill” on it.
Law enforcement authorities were questioning two “people of interest,” the governor said. One may have “certain information,” he said, and the other had some “suspicious reactions.”
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said most victims were students.
“Officers inside encountered a bloody mess in the school,” a law enforcement official told the Houston Chronicle.
Area hospitals said two victims were in critical condition. One of the wounded was a police officer, John Barnes, who engaged the gunman and was shot in the elbow, officials said.
The shooting was the latest in what has become an all-too-familiar situation in American schools, where gun violence has become a part of everyday life, part of a broader toll taken by firearms which are responsible for more than 30,000 gun-related deaths annually in the US.