Family of alleged Texas school shooter says they are ‘shocked and confused’
The family of the 17-year-old boy accused of killing 10 people and wounding 13 others at a Texas high school Friday issued a statement expressing condolences to the victims.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis’ family members said they are “as shocked and confused as anyone by these events that occurred.”
Pagourtzis is a “smart, quiet, sweet boy,” they said.
The statement, issued through a law firm, says the family is cooperating with investigators and will make no other public comments until the fact-finding stage is completed.
“While we remain mostly in the dark about the specifics of yesterday’s tragedy, what we have learned from media reports seems incompatible with the boy we love,” they said.
Pagourtzis is being held without bail and is accused of capital murder of multiple people and aggravated assault on a public servant. He has not entered a plea.
Robert Barfield, the attorney for Pagourtzis, said his client is “not doing well” and is “confused.”
A day after the massacre in the southeastern Texas city of Santa Fe, people are focused on mourning and recovery, as the area’s congressman said residents “will pull together” like they did after Hurricane Harvey months ago.
“We will grieve together, we will love one another, we will work together. We did it after Harvey — still doing it after Harvey,” US Rep. Randy Weber told reporters Saturday afternoon, referring to the storm that ravaged the Houston area in late August. “We’ll do it after this.”
“We will get through this,” he said.
Police say Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, used a shotgun and a revolver to shoot students and teachers at Santa Fe High School on Friday morning.
Pagourtzis told an investigator he acted alone and spared people he liked because he wanted his story told, a probable cause affidavit says.
On Saturday evening, a vigil for the victims is scheduled to be held on the other side of Houston, in the community of Spring.
One of the students who was killed was Jared Black, who turned 17 this week and was supposed to have a birthday party Saturday. A family friend told CNN his family learned of his death about 13 hours after the shooting.
The victims killed also included:
• Sabika Sheikh, Pakistani exchange student
• Chris Stone, 17
• Shana Fisher
• Angelique Ramirez
• Christian Riley Garcia
• Aaron Kyle McLeod
• Kimberly Vaughan
• Glenda Ann Perkins and Cynthia Tisdale, who were teachers
Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt has offered to pay the funeral expenses for victims of the massacre, according to a spokeswoman for the NFL team.
The Santa Fe school district will close its schools Monday and Tuesday, officials said — but students and staff are slowly being allowed to collect their belongings from part of the the high school.
Officers were escorting people back to the campus Saturday in groups of 10 to collect things such as valuables, keys and vehicles, school district Police Chief Walter Braun said. Fifty had returned to the school by the afternoon.
A shotgun and a .38 revolver
The gunfire at Santa Fe High School, not far from Houston in southeastern Texas, started Friday morning. The alleged shooter used a shotgun and a .38 revolver legally owned by his father, Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters.
Gunfire erupted at the school not long after classes began around 7:30 a.m. local time, officials said.
Two school resource officers were on the campus and confronted the shooter, Abbott said.
Authorities later found explosive devices — including pipe bombs and pressure cookers — in and near the school, a law enforcement official said.
Henry told reporters that the suspect had devices but none were functional. One was a pressure cooker with an alarm clock and nails, but no explosive material. Authorities also found an unlit Molotov cocktail, he said.
Investigators on Friday searched a trailer where they believe the devices were assembled, a law enforcement source said.
Investigators believe Pagourtzis acted alone, a law enforcement official told CNN on Saturday.
Earlier, Abbott and other officials indicated that two other people were being interviewed to see whether they were involved. But authorities now believe those two were not connected to the crime, the official said.
Exchange student among those killed
The people hospitalized included retired Houston police Officer John Barnes, who served as a resource officer at the school.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted Friday afternoon that he had visited Barnes in the hospital, and the retired officer was “hanging in there.”
Barnes was in critical condition, the University of Texas Medical Branch said Saturday.
This is the 22nd US school shooting so far this year, and the third instance in eight days in which a gunman was on a school campus.
Gunshots in an art room, and a fire alarm
A student, Damon Rabon, said he was in class when he heard a loud bang next door.
“We thought maybe someone was banging on the shop door or maybe something fell,” the senior said. Rabon said he followed his teacher, who went to investigate.
They heard three more bangs and saw the shooter come out of an art room.
“At this point we knew this was … really happening to us,” Rabon said.
They went back into their classroom and told others to help barricade the door.
A substitute teacher, David Briscoe, said he was teaching an English class when he heard screaming and gunshots, then a fire alarm.
Not knowing where the shooter was, he barricaded his classroom door with tables and desks, turned off the lights and told his students to get down. He told CNN he could hear someone outside the room groaning, apparently injured.
“It felt like hours before we got out of the school, but one of my students said it was 30 to 45 minutes,” Briscoe said. “I had around 10 to 15 students and I’m grateful they were safe.”
Angelica Martinez, 14, told CNN that an alarm sounded, as well as gunfire. She and her schoolmates at one point were evacuated “like it’s a fire drill.”
“We were all standing (outside), but not even five minutes later, we started hearing gunshots,” she said. “And then everybody starts running, but, like, the teachers are telling us to stay put, but we’re all just running away.”
“I didn’t see anybody shooting, but, like, (the gunshots) were kind of spaced,” Angelica said, adding she heard about four shots.
Another student, Dakota Shrader, told CNN affiliate KPRC that she heard gunshots after the alarm blared.
“I was in the history hallway, and as soon as we heard the alarms, everybody just started leaving, following the same procedure as … (a) practice fire drill,” Shrader said, breaking into tears. “And next thing you know, we just hear … three gunshots, loud explosions, and all the teachers are telling us to run.”
Police chief ‘hit rock bottom’
Acevedo said he was “not ashamed to admit I’ve shed tears of sadness, pain and anger” after the shooting.
“I know some have strong feelings about gun rights, but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom,” he said in a Facebook post, adding he would “de-friend” anyone who posted anything about “guns aren’t the problem.”
President Donald Trump addressed the school shooting, saying that mass shootings have been “going on too long.”
“Unfortunately, I have to begin by expressing our sadness and heartbreak over the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas,” Trump said. “This has been going on too long in our country. Too many years. Too many decades now.”
Trump said federal authorities are coordinating with local officials.
“We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack,” Trump said.
By Steve Almasy, Jason Hanna and Faith Karimi, CNN