TAFT, CA (RNN) – Hours after a routine school lockdown drill, a student with a 12-gauge shotgun opened fire at a California high school, leaving another student in critical condition, police say.
Taft County Sheriff Donny Youngblood says the 16-year-old gunman didn't show up for school Thursday morning at Taft Union High, but interrupted class halfway through first period.
The suspect shot the victim, also 16, then tried to shoot a second student, however he missed.
"The evidence is his pockets were full. He had a lot of rounds," Youngblood said.
Some students barricaded themselves in a storage closet while others fled the classroom.
He didn't get off many rounds before the teacher in the classroom engaged the shooter in conversation and tried to convince him to put down his weapon. The teacher and a campus resource officer eventually persuaded the suspect to relinquish his weapon and he was taken into police custody.
Officers say the conversation not only diffused the situation but gave the students the chance to flee.
"They are teachers and obviously they inherently love and care about the children in their classroom, and what they did demonstrate that love for their kids," Youngblood said.
"We will never know what his plan was. I don't think he knew what his plan was. So we won't know what might have occurred had that teacher and counselor not stepped in. Thank God we'll never know," he said.
While police have not released a motive, they believe the gunman felt bullied by the victim he shot.
"I'm not sure there was any bullying that occurred. I'm sure there was a perception that there was [bullying]," Youngblood said.
Throughout the afternoon, police continued to sweep through the school examining each classroom and digging through backpacks left behind to ensure there were no more weapons on the scene.
The alleged gunman's name will not be released because he is a juvenile. He will be charged with attempted murder. Whether he will be tried as a juvenile or adult will be a matter for the attorney general to decide.
"We know this started for him last night and culminated this morning. When he went to bed last night, in his mind, he knew what he was going to do today," Youngblood said.
The victim underwent immediate surgery at Kern Medical Center, where he is currently in the ICU. Doctors say he sustained injuries in the chest and abdominal cavity.
"He has a ways to go. He has more operations to undergo but I think he's going to recover, that we'll be able to pull him through this," Dr. Ruby Skinner of Kern Medical Center told affiliate KERO.
"The main thing he has [working in his favor] is his youth."
In addition to the student in critical condition, one student went to the hospital with possible hearing damage after the shotgun fired close to her ears. Another student fell over a desk trying to get out of the room and sustained only minor ankle injuries. The teacher sustained a minor pellet wound to the head.
The school, which serves the city and surrounding area, was founded in 1912. The California Department of Education reports the public school holds grades nine through 12 and has about 935 students and 64 faculty members.
An armed Taft Police Department officer is usually assigned to the school, however Youngblood said he was unable to report to the school today because he was "snowed in."
The school will not be holding class tomorrow.
Taft is located about 30 miles west southwest of Bakersfield and has a population around 7,000.
The shooting in Taft, CA comes less than a month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, which left 28 people dead.
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