SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (CN) – A 16-year-old walked into his Southern California high school’s quad Thursday morning, pulled a handgun from his backpack and shot five of his classmates and then himself, police have revealed.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department declined to identify the boy, but said Thursday is his birthday. He is in grave condition at an area hospital, the department said.
The shooting took place at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles. As of Thursday afternoon, a 16-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy have died in the attack.
Ember Miller, 17, was in statistics when a student barged into her classroom and said “gunshots.” Her teacher opened the door and a group of students flooded in to take shelter.
“I kind of didn’t believe it just because we’ve had few threats to our school and issues with my high school career,” Miller said.
As soon as someone turned off the lights, the reality set in and students barricaded the doors. Some of her friends were crying and she says she felt strangely calm but still tense. About an hour to two hours later students heard police come into the building.
Miller and her classmates walked off campus with their hands held up. She was struck by the scene.
“It was crazy seeing all the backpacks and water bottles and food thrown open. It was like being on a movie set for a movie I can’t believe I’m living in,” said Miller.
Michelle Harrison, 17, was in her forensic science class when she heard three to four gunshots.
“The first thing I did was I stood up with one other person in my classroom and we were able to detect they were gunshots,” Harrison said outside Central Park where parents were reunited with students. “We told everybody they were gunshots. We told them to turn off the lights and we barricaded the door.”
Harrison’s mother, Sheri Harrison said, “I took a few breaths. I wanted to make sure that she was safe. Of course she was frightened.”
They were in contact through text messages.
“It was risky, but I did text my mom and told her to please send the police to school because there is an active shooter on campus,” said Michelle Harrison. She said her classmates were barricaded in their classroom for about two hours before law enforcement retrieved them.
Olivia Hurst, 17, was on her way to school when she got a message from her English teacher that there was an active shooter.
Hurst said the shooting was in the quad area and while she doesn’t know any of the people who were shot, she wanted to provide emotional support to her friends who were at the park being reunited with their families.
“I’m OK. I didn’t know anybody so it’s not hitting me as hard as it’s hitting some other people. I’m just trying to be as nice of a support as I can,” said Hurst.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the investigation is ongoing.
“With heavy heart we’re going to move forward with the investigation to figure out what went wrong. I hate to have Saugus be added to the names of Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook, but it’s a reality that affects us all throughout the nation,” Villanueva said.