Police look for motive behind California school shooting

By Steve Gorman

By Steve Gorman

SANTA CLARITA, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Just 16 seconds passed from the time a California high school student pulled a .45 semi-automatic pistol from his backpack in an outdoor school courtyard and emptied the weapon, killing two classmates and wounding three more, before shooting himself in the head and collapsing.

Police investigating the Thursday morning shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 40 miles (65 km) north of Los Angeles, said they did not yet know the motive.

The shooter's name was not released by police, who said it was his 16th birthday. He saved his last bullet for himself, and was in grave condition at a hospital, authorities said.

Early on Friday, two girls aged 14 and 15 were being treated at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, California and were listed in good and fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

At the Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita, authorities said a 14-year-old male was treated and released, and the other students died.

No names of the wounded or the dead were released early on Friday, but the two slain students were a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy.

Captain Kent Wegener of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said surveillance video footage showed the suspect opening fire from a single stationary position, shooting his victims in rapid succession before turning the gun on himself.

The scene at Saugus High School was reminiscent of other mass shootings at U.S. schools, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student with an assault gun killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018.

It was the 85th incident of gunfire at a school this year, according to Everytown, a gun control advocacy group. Police said the accused shooter had acted alone. Investigators descended on his family home, blocking off the street. They found no further danger there.

A next-door neighbor, registered nurse Jared Axen, said the suspect had seemed introverted and sad, possibly despondent over the loss of his father from a heart attack in December 2017.

"I would say he (the boy) was hurting and couldn’t ask for help," Axen said of the suspect, who was a track athlete at the school, involved in Boy Scouts and liked the outdoors, going on hunting trips with his father.

There was no immediate word on where the suspect obtained the weapon.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Alan Devall in Santa Clarita; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter and Barbara Goldberg in New York City, Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, Dan Whitcomb in Culver City and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru Writing by Daniel Trotta and Dan Whitcomb and additional reporting and writing by Rich McKay Editing by Frances Kerry)