A student armed with a 12-gauge shotgun opened fire in a California high school on Thursday, critically wounding a fellow student before two staff members talked the boy into putting down his weapon, authorities said.
The suspected sole gunman, a 16-year-old boy, was arrested by police who arrived at Taft Union High School in inland Kern County about a minute after being called, said County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
The shooting unfolded on Thursday morning at the only senior high school in Taft, a city of about 10,000 people on the southwest edge of the agricultural San Joaquin Valley, about 30 miles southwest of Bakersfield.
One student critically wounded by gunfire was airlifted to a nearby hospital, Youngblood said.
The identity of the shooter, who police say walked into a class in progress and opened fire, was not immediately released. The suspect apparently had a disagreement with the student who was critically injured, police said.
The assailant called out the name of another intended target, who was also a student in the class, and he shot at that person, but missed, Youngblood said.
In the chaos, another student suffered minor injuries while falling over a table trying the flee the classroom, and a fourth student was taken to a hospital with possible hearing damage from the sound of the gun blast, Youngblood said.
The suspected shooter was arrested after a teacher and a school administrator who confronted him persuaded the boy to put his gun down, Youngblood told reporters. Students fled the class while the two adults pacified the shooter, he said.
“The heroics of these two people, it goes without saying,” Youngblood said. “To stand there and face someone that has a shotgun, who’s already discharged it and shot a student, it speaks volumes for these two young men.”
The shooter had up to 20 shotgun rounds in his pocket, and there were more than 20 students in the classroom, authorities said. The teacher, who has not been named, was hit in the head with a shotgun pellet, but was not seriously wounded, they said.
“I think he saved many lives today,” U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a Republican who represents the Taft area, told a news conference.
The suspected gunman lives near the school, and he arrived late to campus, Youngblood said. A resident near the school saw him walking toward the campus armed with a shotgun and called authorities, Youngblood said.
An armed police officer is normally assigned to Taft Union High School but was not able to make it to work on Thursday because of snow on the roads, Youngblood said.
Taft school officials had held a lockdown exercise on Thursday ahead of the shooting, in part in response to the recent massacre in Newtown, Conn., said Taft Union High School District superintendent Bill McDermott. They soon were forced to hold a real lockdown in response to the gunfire, he said.