SANTA FE, Texas -- A 17-year-old student confessed to opening fire Friday at his Texas high school, killing 10 people, and told investigators that he had spared certain students "so he could have his story told," authorities said.
A Galveston County sheriff's office investigator wrote in an affidavit that the student, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, had waived his right to remain silent and had given "a statement admitting to shooting multiple people" at Santa Fe High School. The investigator, identified only as J. Roy, also wrote that Pagourtzis had said he did not shoot students he liked.
Before his arrest, Pagourtzis exchanged gunfire with police officers for about 15 minutes and abandoned what he said had been his intention to take his own life.
"He decided to chicken out of that and came out with his hands up," Mark Henry, the county judge of Galveston County, said in an interview Saturday. "The investigator said there were a lot of shell casings from both sides."
Click here for larger versions
Photos by the Associated Press
Photos by the Associated Press
It appears that the gunman first targeted the art room, where Rome Shubert, a 16-year-old pitcher on the school's baseball team, dove under a table, and then flipped the table on its side to crouch behind it for cover.
"He had a handgun in his hand, and I didn't notice that he had a shotgun until I was peeking under the table," Shubert said. "I had gotten under the table for a few seconds, and I flipped it up in front of me. I want to say he had black pants, black shirt and then a long black trench coat. And he had a pistol and then a shotgun. The shotgun was draped across the front of his body."
He said he was hit in the back of the head by what he thought was a bullet, but that it "missed everything vital."
Shubert said he did not know why Pagourtzis had targeted the art room. "From what I heard, he didn't yell anything," he said. "A couple people told me he said, 'Surprise.' Another person told me he said, 'You're going to pay.'"
Breanna Quintanilla, 17, said she tried to run out a back door, and realized the gunman was aiming at her. He fired in her direction.
"He missed me," she said. "But it went ahead and ricocheted and hit me in my right leg."
She was treated at a hospital and spoke with a brown bandage wrapped around her wound.
"Karma's going to come back, and it'll come back hard," she said. "I hope he sees what he's done."
Isabelle Laymance, 15, was one of eight students who barricaded themselves in a supply closet that connected two art classrooms. She said the gunman shot a school police officer who approached him, then talked with other officers, offering to surrender.
"He kept saying 'If I come out, don't shoot me.' They didn't shoot him; they just put him in handcuffs," she said.
The entire episode lasted about 30 minutes, from the first word of the shooting at 7:32 a.m. Friday, until the suspect was said to be in custody at 8:03 a.m.
Authorities have not provided further details of the interaction that led to Pagourtzis' surrender. Santa Fe Independent School District Police Chief Walter Braun said at a news conference that the police officer wounded in the shooting was in "critical but stable condition" at a hospital.
The FBI on Saturday increased the number of people reported injured from 10 to 13.
The assault in the rural community of about 13,000 people was the deadliest U.S. school shooting since February, when 17 people were killed in Parkland, Fla.
'WE WERE PREPARED'
The school district had a plan in case of an attack, and two armed police officers walked the halls of the high school. School district leaders had even agreed last fall to eventually arm teachers and staff members under Texas' school marshal program.
Supporters of those policies say that without the measures already in place, the death toll could have been much worse.
"My first indication is that our policies and procedures worked," J.R. "Rusty" Norman, president of the school district's board of trustees, said Saturday. "Having said that, the way things are, if someone wants to get into a school to create havoc, they can do it."
Norman said he saw school security as a way to control, not prevent, school violence. And the school district had some practice. In February, two weeks after the Parkland shooting, Santa Fe High went into lockdown after a false alarm of a shooter situation, resulting in a huge emergency response. The school won a statewide award for its safety program.
"We can never be over-prepared," Norman said. "But we were prepared."
The gunman in Santa Fe used a pistol and a shotgun, both firearms he took from his father, police said. So there were no echoes of the calls to ban military-style rifles or raise the minimum age for gun purchases.
Instead, some residents pointed to a lack of religion in schools.
"It's not the guns. It's the people. It's a heart problem," said Sarah Tassin, 61. "We need to bring God back into the schools."
Norman Franzke, 69, whose granddaughter safely escaped from Santa Fe High, noted that guns have been part of Texas culture for generations. When he attended the Santa Fe school, students kept shotguns on gun racks in the back of their pickups, ready to go hunting after school.
"I don't think this will change the mentality of this community," Franzke said. "There may be some changes in how kids enter and leave school. But even then, he was a student, so he would still have had access."
Investigators said Pagourtzis had given no overt indications of his plans.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said after the attack that any "red-flag warnings were either nonexistent or very imperceptible," but he said that investigators had recovered information from Pagourtzis' computer and cellphone that suggested that he wanted to carry out the shooting and to kill himself afterward.
Pagourtzis' attorney, Nicholas Poehl, said he was investigating whether the suspect endured any "teacher-on-student" bullying after reading reports of his client being mistreated by football coaches.
In an online statement, the school district said it investigated the accusations and "confirmed that these reports were untrue."
Poehl said that there was no history of mental-health issues with his client, though there may be "some indications of family history." He said it was too early to elaborate.
As Pagourtzis was being held without bail Saturday, on charges of capital murder and aggravated assault of a public servant, investigators spent the day poring over his life and a crime scene pocked with bullet holes and littered with shell casings.
It was not clear Saturday whether Pagourtzis' father had known his son had taken his shotgun and .38-caliber revolver, or if the father could face prosecution. State law makes it illegal to give a gun to anyone under 18, except under the supervision of an adult for hunting or sport shooting.
Henry, the county executive, said that two possible improvised explosive devices that Pagourtzis reportedly had taken to the school had turned out to be harmless. One, Henry said, was a pressure cooker with an alarm clock and nails, but it contained no explosive material. Another device, also found harmless, involved carbon dioxide canisters that had been wrapped up with duct tape.
"They were of absolutely of no harm or danger to anyone," Henry said.
The Pagourtzis family released a statement Saturday saying they are "shocked and confused" by what happened and that the incident "seems incompatible with the boy we love."
Relatives said they remained "mostly in the dark about the specifics" of the attack and shared "the public's hunger for answers." The statement also offered prayers and condolences to the victims.
Government officials pleaded for privacy for the families of the victims.
Many of Santa Fe's roughly 1,400 students were being allowed to return to the campus Saturday afternoon, each escorted by a police officer, to retrieve the belongings they left when they were evacuated. The students were allowed in groups of no more than 10, Braun said.
The school district said all its schools would be closed Monday and Tuesday and it would offer counseling.
But Santa Fe High did host a scheduled baseball playoff game Saturday night, and the school's grief was on display. Santa Fe players had crosses painted on their faces and the initials of shooting victims written on tape around their wrists. The team also fashioned a tape cross over the dugout with 10 sets of initials and the phrase "missed but never forgotten." Some members of the opposing team, Kingwood Park, had "Pray for SF" written on tape around their wrists.
Shubert, the wounded pitcher, attended the game dressed in a team jersey, but wearing shorts rather than a full uniform. Shubert had tweeted that he was OK and stable.
The school had canceled a playoff game on the day of the shooting.
Information for this article was contributed by Manny Fernandez and Alan Blinder of The New York Times; by Todd C. Frankel, Brittney Martin, Tim Craig, Christian Davenport, Amy B. Wang, Devlin Barrett, Julie Tate, Alice Crites and Jennifer Jenkins of The Washington Post; and by Paul J. Weber and Juan A. Lozano of The Associated Press.
A student (left) leaves Santa Fe High School on Saturday after retrieving belongings left behind Friday during a shooting at the school in Santa Fe, Texas, that left 10 people dead.
A Section on 05/20/2018
Print Headline: Affidavit says suspect wanted 'his story told'; Texas school shooting ended in surrender