January 12, 2013

Cries of 'sorry' halted gunman's rampage

A 16-year-old girl who witnessed the shooting says the gunman 'slumped' on hearing pleas for mercy.

The Associated Press

TAFT, Calif. - Morgan Alldredge had just finished her oceanography test when a classmate she knows suddenly walked in the open door to her science class with a shotgun.

click image to enlarge

Parents and students gather outside Taft Union High School after a shooting Thursday that left one student hospitalized and a suspect charged with two counts of attempted murder.

The Associated Press

"He didn't say anything. He just shot right away," said the 16-year-old junior who was sitting by the doorway as the terrifying events unfolded Thursday morning at Taft Union High School, about 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The round struck a boy in the chest and shoulder. The shooter then quickly pumped the gun, identified as a Winchester 12-gauge, and immediately fired another round at students who were trying to flee out a back door.

"He had a kind of disturbing smile on his face. Kind of a smirk," said Alldredge, who estimated she was about 5 feet from the gunman. He then looked at her and mouthed the words "not you" as she sat frozen at her desk, Alldredge said. "All I want is Jacob," he said.

That boy, Alldredge's former boyfriend, was hiding behind a desk in the classroom.

"He popped his head up and apologized for bullying him," she said. "He kept saying, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry.' He was crying."

Seeing the boy's emotion seemed to change everything for the gunman, Alldredge said. His shoulders "sort of slumped" and he began listening to the teacher, Ryan Heber, who was telling him to put down the gun, she said.

When he did, Kim Fields, a school official who hurried to the scene when gunshots were reported, grabbed the teen in a bear hug and sat him on the ground, Alldredge said.

On Friday, Kern County sheriff's deputies booked the 16-year-old suspect into Juvenile Hall on two counts of attempted murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. Meanwhile, the boy shot in the chest remained hospitalized in critical condition but is expected to survive. Neither boy's name was released.

Police are trying to piece together what led to the violence in the rural San Joaquin Valley community surrounded by farmland and oil wells. Many students described the boy as a loner who was called names.

Police were investigating reports that the boy had compiled a "hit list" that led to him being suspended from school last year, said Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt.

School officials have declined to comment about the boy's disciplinary record.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood said investigators believe the gunman plotted the attack and targeted two people, one of whom is the wounded boy. Classmates described the victim as a Spiderman fan who played football and basketball for Taft.

"He planned the event," Youngblood said of the shooter. "Certainly he believed that the two people he targeted had bullied him, in his mind. Whether that occurred or not, we don't know yet."," he said.


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