SANTA FE, Texas -- A 17-year-old armed with a shotgun and a pistol opened fire at a Houston-area high school Friday, killing 10 people, most of them students, authorities said. It was the nation's deadliest such attack since the Feb. 14 massacre in Florida that gave rise to a campaign by teens for gun control.
The suspect, who was in custody on murder charges, also had explosive devices that were found in the school and nearby, said Gov. Greg Abbott, who called the assault "one of the most heinous attacks that we've ever seen in the history of Texas schools."
Authorities provided no immediate motive for the shooting. The governor said the assailant intended to kill himself but gave up and told police that he did not have the courage to take his own life.
The shooting is all but certain to reignite the national debate over gun regulations, coming just three months after the Parkland, Fla., attack that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
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Photos by the Associated Press
Photos by the Associated Press
"It's been happening everywhere. I've always kind of felt like that eventually it was going to happen here, too," Santa Fe High School student Paige Curry told Houston television station KTRK. "I don't know. I wasn't surprised. I was just scared."
Another 10 people were wounded at the school in Santa Fe, a city of about 13,000 people roughly 30 miles southeast of Houston. Santa Fe school resource officer John Barnes, the first person to confront the gunman, was among those injured, officials said.
David Marshall, the University of Texas Medical Branch's chief nursing officer, said Friday afternoon that Barnes was in surgery to repair a gunshot wound in his arm. The bullet damaged the bone and a major blood vessel around his elbow, according to reports.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the gunman yelled "Surprise" before he started shooting.
A second student was being questioned in the attack, said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, calling that student "a person of interest." Abbott said a third person is suspected of having "certain information" and will be interviewed by police, although he did not elaborate on what that person might know or the relationship to the attacker.
The suspect was identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who appeared to have no previous arrests or confrontations with law enforcement officials. A woman who answered the phone at a number associated with the Pagourtzis family declined to speak to a reporter.
"Give us our time right now, thank you," she said.
Pagourtzis made his initial court appearance Friday evening by video link from the Galveston County jail. A judge denied bail for him and took his application for a court-appointed attorney.
Pagourtzis played on the junior varsity football team and was a member of a dance squad with a Greek Orthodox church. Acquaintances described him as quiet and unassuming, and an avid video-game player who routinely wore a black trench coat and black boots to class.
The teen obtained the shotgun and a .38-caliber handgun from his father, who owned them legally, Abbott said. It was not clear whether the father knew that his son had taken them.
Investigators were determining whether the shotgun's shortened barrel was legal, said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
The attacker's homemade explosives included pipe bombs, at least one Molotov cocktail and pressure-cooker bombs similar to those used in the Boston Marathon attack, authorities said.
Breanna Quintanilla, 17, said that when the gunman walked into her art classroom, he pointed at one person and said, "I'm going to kill you." She did not identify the student, who was shot.
Quintanilla also said the attacker fired in her direction as she tried to run out of the room. The bullet ricocheted and hit her right leg. She was still wearing a hospital bracelet as she spoke after a Friday night vigil.
Student Michael Farina, 17, said he was on the opposite side of campus when the shooting began. A fire alarm sounded, and he thought there was a fire drill. He was holding a door open for special-education students in wheelchairs when a principal came bounding down the hall and telling everyone to run. Another teacher yelled out, "It is real!"
Students were led to take cover behind a car shop across the street from the school. Some still did not feel safe and began jumping the fence behind the shop to run even farther away, Farina said.
"I debated doing that myself," he said.
PARKLAND REACHES OUT
While cable news channels aired hours of live coverage, survivors of the Feb. 14 Florida attack took to social media to express grief and anger.
"My heart is so heavy for the students of Santa Fe High School. It's an all too familiar feeling no one should have to experience. I am so sorry this epidemic touched your town -- Parkland will stand with you now and forever," Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Jaclyn Corin wrote in a tweet.
She also directed her frustration at President Donald Trump, writing "Our children are being MURDERED and you're treating this like a game. This is the 22nd school shooting just this year. DO SOMETHING."
Trump on Friday ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims and their families.
In the aftermath of the Florida attack, survivors petitioned city councils and state lawmakers, and organized protests in a grass-roots movement.
Within weeks, state lawmakers adopted changes, including new weapons restrictions. The move cemented the gun-friendly state's break with the National Rifle Association. The NRA fought back with a lawsuit.
In late March, the teens spearheaded one of the largest student protest marches since the Vietnam War in Washington and inspired hundreds of other marches from California to Japan.
The calls for tighter gun controls that have swelled since February have barely registered in gun-loving Texas -- at least to this point.
Texas has some of the most permissive gun laws in the U.S. and hosted the NRA's annual conference earlier this month. In the run-up to the March primary election, gun control was not a main issue with candidates of either party. Republicans did not soften their views on guns, and Democrats campaigned on a range of issues instead of zeroing in on gun violence.
Friday's attack was the deadliest in Texas since a man with a semi-automatic rifle attacked a rural church late last year, killing more than two dozen people.
Senior Logan Roberds said he was near the Santa Fe school's art room when he heard a fire alarm and left the building with other students. Once outside, Roberds said, he heard two loud bangs. He initially thought somebody was hitting a trash can. Then came three more bangs.
"That's when the teachers told us to run," he said.
Roberds said additional gun-control measures are not needed. He cited the need for defense against intruders.
"What are you going to do if some guy comes in your house and points a gun at you? You can't do nothing with a knife," he said.
Late Friday, details began to emerge about the victims.
One was identified by family members as Cynthia Tisdale, a substitute teacher who relatives say had a "lust for life." Another was Sabika Sheikh, a foreign-exchange student from Pakistan, according to a leader at a program for exchange students and the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Tisdale's niece, Leia Olinde, said Tisdale was like a mother to her. "I've never met a woman who loved her family so much," said Olinde, 25.
She said Tisdale was married to her husband for nearly 40 years and that the two had three children and eight grandchildren.
Megan Lysaght, manager of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad program, confirmed Sabika's death in a letter.
She said the program would be holding a moment of silence for the girl, who is pictured beaming in a shirt that says "Texas" in a photo posted on social media.
The Pakistan Association of Greater Houston wrote on Facebook that Sabika was due to go back home to Pakistan for Eid al-Fitr, a three-day holiday that marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
"May Allah bless her soul and may she RIP," the statement said.
FEW WARNING SIGNS
There were few previous warning signs about Pagourtzis' behavior, unlike the shootings in Parkland and the church in Sutherland Springs, Abbott said, but the teen wrote in journals of wanting to carry out such an attack and then to end his own life.
"This young man planned on doing this for some time. He advertised his intentions, but somehow slipped through the cracks," Cornyn said.
Pagourtzis had posted an image on Facebook of a "Born to Kill" shirt, Abbott said.
That same Facebook profile described Pagourtzis as planning to enter the Marine Corps next year, but the Marine Corps said it has reviewed its records and found no one by that name as either a recruit or a person in its delayed-entry pool.
Those who know Pagourtzis expressed shock that he might be involved in the killings.
Tristen Patterson, a 16-year-old junior at Santa Fe, said he considered Pagourtzis a friend. He said Pagourtzis was into video games that simulated war and that he sometimes talked about guns -- firearms that he liked or wanted to get.
"But he never talked about killing people or anything like that," Patterson said.
He said Pagourtzis didn't show signs of being bullied but also rarely talked about himself. In one of their classes, Pagourtzis would sometimes enter the room "acting a little bit down or sad. A little bit sluggish," Patterson said.
"But he never talked about why," he said.
The Rev. Stelios Sitaras of Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Galveston, Texas, said he met Pagourtzis when the young man danced with a group as part of an annual festival in October. He said the Pagourtzises are members of a nearby parish.
Sitaras said he had never heard of the teen being in any sort of trouble.
"He is a quiet boy," the priest said. "You would never think he would do anything like this."
Santa Fe Independent School District officials announced later Friday that classes will be canceled at least through Tuesday.
Information for this article was contributed by Juan A. Lozano, Eric Tucker, David Warren, Jamie Stengle, Diana Heidgerd, Nomaan Merchant, Will Weissert, Paul J. Weber, Michael Biesecker, Jeff Horwitz and John Mone of The Associated Press; by Manny Fernandez, Alan Blinder and Niraj Chokshi of The New York Times; and by Brittney Martin, Mark Berman and Susan Svrluga of The Washington Post.
Santa Fe High School staff members wait to be taken to another school Friday.
Parents of students at Santa Fe High School gather with others to pray Friday in a parking lot at Arcadia First Baptist Christian School in Santa Fe, Texas, after the deadly shooting at the high school.
Law enforcement officers respond Friday morning at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.
Kevin Riney and Emily Howard take part in a prayer vigil for the school shooting victims Friday evening in Santa Fe.
Shooting suspect Dimitrios Pagourtzis is shown in his booking photo taken Friday.
A Section on 05/19/2018
Print Headline: Shots in Texas school kill 10 people