Santa Fe High School wasn’t the typical gun-free zone. In fact, it was was more prepared than most schools for an active shooter situation.
The school district had an active-shooter plan, and two armed police officers walked the halls of the high school. School district leaders had even agreed last Autumn to eventually arm teachers and staff under the state’s school marshal program, one of the country’s most aggressive and controversial policies intended to get more guns into classrooms.
They thought they were a hardened target, part of what’s expected today of the American public high school in an age when school shootings occur with alarming frequency. And so a death toll of 10 was a tragic sign of failure and needing to do more, but also a sign, to some, that it could have been much worse.
Unlike the abject failure and non-response in Parkland, the Santa Fe SROs went toward the sound of gunfire and engaged the shooter.
Officers arrived at the school’s art lab section about four minutes into the shooting and engaged the shooter right away, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset told CNN.
That probably stopped Dimitrios Pagourtzis from shooting more of his classmates — yelling “woo hoo” as fired — many of whom he apparently targeted for specific perceived grievances and slights.
One of the students killed, Shana Fisher, had rejected the suspect’s advances for months, her mother Sadie Baze said. Finally, about a week ago, she stood up to him in the middle of class to proclaim she would not go out with him.
Baze said she believes the incident embarrassed the suspect so much that he targeted Shana. “One of the shotgun shells was for my daughter,” she said.
Unlike other notorious shooters, Pagourtzis didn’t appear to fit the profile of the troubled, disaffected outcast. He was on the school football team and was involved with his family’s church.
The alleged gunman’s classmates and parents said they saw no signs of trouble before the shooting, though some said he had seemed somewhat depressed in recent months.
Bertha Bland, whose grandson is good friends with Mr Pagourtzis, said she knew the teenager well and described him as “an outstanding kid” and a good student.
He reportedly exchanged gunfire with the two deputies and negotiated with police — seriously wounding one of them — for 25 minutes before finally surrendering. Perhaps one of the most revealing reports was this one:
The suspect told an investigator he acted alone and spared people he liked because he wanted his story told, according to a probable cause affidavit.
It’s certainly possible that, in addition to the school resource officers, armed teachers and staff, which the district was in the process of implementing, might have further limited the number of killed and wounded. But even in a school that had prepared for the worst, the Santa Fe shooter was still able to get a shotgun and revolver into the building under his black trench coat and take a terrible toll.
How, then, to better protect schools? The next step would seem to be limited points of building access and metal detectors and/or clear backpacks…which weren’t at all popular with Parkland students. Your thoughts?