No deaths reported in latest school shooting
EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) – An 18-year-old student opened fire at his high school Thursday, wounding three classmates and two teachers before he was shot by a police officer who engaged him in a running gun battle, authorities said.
There was no immediate indication what triggered the violence at Granite Hills High School, which came less than three weeks after two students were killed at a nearby school in Santee.
The suspect, identified by authorities as Jason Hoffman, was shot in the jaw and buttocks, the most serious injuries stemming from the violence. Police said the attacker used a shotgun and also had a semi-automatic handgun, but it was unclear whether he fired the handgun in the attack.
Shotgun pellet wounds suffered by the students and teachers were not life-threatening, hospital and police officials said. Five other students and adults were treated for other injuries, none of them serious.
A 51-year-old man, who had chest pains while running to the scene to find his child, was in critical condition. Police also said a pregnant woman rushing to the campus went into labor.
”There were no warning signs,” said senior Travis Peters, who had an algebra class with Hoffman. ”He wasn’t an outcast, no one made fun of him. … As far as I know, he was like every other kid.”
Jiovani Guerrero, a junior who went to Granite Hills with Hoffman last year and now attends a different school, said Hoffman may have been upset about not getting enough credits to graduate.
”He was supposed to graduate this spring, but that wasn’t going to happen, Guerrero said.
Junior Roger Pollock, 16, was in math class taking a test when he heard a rapid succession of about six shots.
”I heard my teacher say, ‘Is that a skateboard?’ I said ‘Nope, that’s not a skateboard. That’s for real,”’ he said.
He said he looked outside the window and saw a young man with blood on his face. Everyone in the class then ducked. The students stayed in the room for 20 minutes, until police escorted them out.
Police Capt. Bill McClurg said Officer Richard Agundez was stationed at the school, heard the gunfire and reported it by radio. He then found the suspect.
”They had a slight running gun battle at the school,” McClurg said.
The midday shooting sparked a confusing scene, with officers scrambling across the campus as many of the 2,900 students fled to a nearby park. Officials canceled classes until Monday, but said students would be allowed on campus Friday to pick up their belongings.
William Ditzler, 16, who was in the school’s main office when the shooting happened, said the school had been rife with rumors about violence since the March 5 rampage at nearby Santana High School.
”We’ve been having graffiti all over our gym saying, ‘You guys are next,”’ Ditzler said.
Thursday’s attack sent a new jolt of fear through communities still shaken by the recent shootings just 7 miles away at Santana High School. Two students were killed, 13 people were injured and a 15-year-old student was arrested in that attack.
”This is a nightmare,” said Glorianne Pollock, Roger Pollock’s mother. ”As a parent, I’m worried to send my kids to school. I just want to lock him in a room and keep him there. This wasn’t as bad as Santana, but it could have been.”
Neither the officer nor a sheriff’s deputy who helped take the gunman into custody were injured, police said.
There were reports that sheriff’s deputies happened to be at the school taking reports on another matter, and that a police officer was also on campus for a presentation, but it was unclear if they became involved.
The suspect was taken to surgery at Sharp Memorial Hospital, said spokeswoman Eileen Cornish.
Hoffman was armed with weapons from his home, said District Attorney Paul Pfingst. He said the teen-ager’s arraignment would be delayed because of his wounds.
Pellet wounds also were suffered by two boys, a girl and two female teachers. All were released from hospitals Thursday except for one of the boys, a 16-year-old who suffered pellet wounds to his chest, arm and head and may remain hospitalized into the weekend, officials said.
Junior Chris Wesley told KGTV the gunman fired at least eight shots and reloaded his weapon.
”It just seemed like he was planning on doing it,” Wesley said.
Ryan Carrillo, a sophomore, told KGTV that he heard gunshots as he walked to a bathroom near the school office.
”It sounded like an explosion, like in a chemistry class or something,” he said of the first two shots he heard. After hearing five more shots, he ran out of the school.
Red Cross spokesman Mickey Stonier, who had also been at Santee, went to El Cajon to help reunite parents and kids.
”This is like pulling a scab off a fresh wound,” Stonier told CNN. ”The community is responding very well.”
Gov. Gray Davis condemned the shooting and said everyone needed to be more aware of signs of trouble among youth.
”Basically, we need to be better listeners,” Davis said. ”We have to hear the signs of alarm or alienation or loneliness from kids and be able to take them aside and make them feel part of the community so these terrible incidents don’t keep happening.”
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