Taft classroom shooting: Heroic effort prevents further violence
Authorities praised the heroic actions of school officials that prevented further bloodshed after a 16-year-old student at Taft Union High School near Bakersfield burst into a classroom Thursday. He allegedly shot a boy in the chest and attempted to fire a 12-gauge shotgun at another student.
A neighbor saw the student walking to the school with a gun and called 911 about 9 a.m. The suspect was supposed to be in the classroom he burst into, which was filled with about 28 students. The suspect waved the gun in different directions and after firing at the victim, aimed at another student and missed, Youngblood said.
A teacher and campus supervisor were able to evacuate the classroom before anyone else was injured. The teacher suffered a minor pellet wound to his head and another student may have suffered hearing damage, authorities said. The suspect had as many as 20 rounds in his pocket.
“They did a great job of protecting the kids,” said Ed Whiting, chief of the Taft Police Department. “We can’t thank them enough for what they did today.”
“This is a tragedy but not as bad as we think it might have been,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said.
Jacob Jackson, a sophomore at Taft Union High School, was in the campus library when the intercom crackled Thursday morning, announcing a lockdown.
"We're supposed to have a lockdown drill next week. I thought it was a drill going early," Jacob, 15, said. "I figured out it was real whenever I heard the helicopter and sirens."
Shortly after 9 a.m., a shooting was reported at the science building, which is separate from where Jacob and his classmates sat for more than an hour, lights off, doors locked.
"I was just thinking, 'I don't want to die,' " Jacob said.
Authorities eventually moved the students and staff to an auditorium, but said they couldn't say what was going on. Rumors were flying, Jacob said, that someone had opened fire in a classroom.
A 16-year-old student was shot and wounded at the school, sheriff's officials said, and was in critical but stable condition. Authorities said the suspect, also a student, used a rifle and tried to shoot a second student but missed.
A third student was taken to an area hospital with possible hearing damage after the shotgun was fired close to her ear, authorities said. A fourth suffered minor injuries when she stumbled over a table.
Panicked parents rushed to the school. Many said they feared the worst after the Dec. 14 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that killed 20 students and six adults.
Mary Jackson, Jacob's mother, works in the school district's food service department. She was in a junior high school kitchen two blocks away when she and her co-workers were told to lock the kitchen doors.
"My first instinct is my son," Jackson said. "I started bawling and fell to the floor."
She left the building and ran to the high school, where she heard that two students had been shot.
"How do I know it wasn't my son? It was horrible — I got a text from my son that said, 'I love you,' " she said. "I broke down. After about three hours, we finally got to talk."
Jackson said she's just glad her children — her daughter attends an elementary school next to Taft Union — are safe.
"It was a long, horrible, horrible feeling in my stomach that I wish on no one," she said.
--Ann Simmons in Taft, and Nicole Santa Cruz and Kate Mather in Los Angeles