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Eyewitness describes Gardena High School shooting

January 18, 2011 | 12:40 pm

A Gardena High senior who was sitting next to students who were shot described a scene of chaos and fear inside the classroom when gunfire erupted Tuesday morning.

Miguel Lopez, 17, said he was in his health class when a gun went off as a male classmate was reaching into his backpack. The student, whose name Lopez did not know, was not pointing the gun at anyone, he said.

Two students sitting next to him in the rear corner of the room were shot, Lopez said. A boy was grazed in the shoulder. A 15-year-old girl next to him was shot in the temple.

"I'm scared and I don't know what's going on," Lopez told the Los Angeles Times by cellphone. Lopez was sitting with classmates inside the dean's office, where they had been escorted by security after the shooting.

Immediately after the gun went off, he said, the student ran out of the classroom. His teacher, Mrs. Jones, began screaming, he said. She ordered everyone out of the classroom just as school security was arriving.

As Lopez was running out, he saw the girl, who school officials said is in critical condition at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

"She kind of was crying. She fell back into her chair and fell on the floor," he said.

Lopez called his mother, in tears.

"He was all freaked out," said his older brother, Hector Lopez, 20, who was waiting outside Gardena High School. "He was traumatized. He saw the girl who was shot in the head. I told him to relax, to calm down, to stay away from whatever's going on."

Miguel Lopez said, "I'm shaken up and I'm worried. Right now, it's a weird quiet inside the dean's office. No one knows what's going on. … I don't even know what to say."

LAUSD spokeswoman Lydia Ramos confirmed Lopez's account, noting that the student did not open fire. Rather, he came to school with a gun in his backpack. When he placed the backpack on a table in his health class, the gun went off. He ran out of the classroom, with his backpack, she said. He dropped the backpack with the gun in it, then hid in another classroom before being taken into custody.


Photos: Gardena High School shooting

Suspect in Gardena High School shooting surrenders; students in classroom safe

Alleged student gunman holed up in Gardena High School classroom; students hit in head, neck

-- Sam Allen in Gardena and Andrew Blankstein