Less than a month after the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the Kern County community of Taft was rocked by a school shooting of its own.
This morning, a 16-year-old student at Taft Union High School walked into his first period classroom and shot another student with a 12 gauge shotgun. The victim is in critical but stable condition, according to Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
“The student that is in critical condition we believe was an intended target, one intended target, of this suspect,” Youngblood said.
He said the shooter also attempted to shoot another student. “He named a second one that he tried to shoot and evidently missed,” said Youngblood.
The school was locked down, and the suspect is now in custody.
During a press conference today, Youngblood said the situation was a tragedy. But it could have escalated further, were it not for the actions of the classroom teacher and a campus supervisor.
“The heroics of these two people goes without saying,” he said. “To stand there and face someone that has shotgun, who has already discharged it and shot a student – that speaks volumes for these two young men and what they may have prevented. They knew not to let him leave that classroom with that shotgun, and they took that responsibility on very seriously and we’re very proud of the job they did.”
The two adults spoke with the student while he was still armed, allowing the other students to evacuate the classroom. They eventually convinced him to put down the gun. The teacher did receive a pellet wound to the head, but is OK.
Earlier that morning, school staff had discussed the emergency lockdown process, said Bill McDermott, the superintendent of Taft Union High School District.
“And that’s exactly what they did this morning,” he said.
The school will be closed on Friday and will reopen on Monday.
Our earlier Valley Public Radio staff report:
UPDATE - 11:50 a.m.
The Kern County Sheriff's Department released the following statement:
One student has been shot and airlifted to a Bakersfield hospital. Suspect is a student and is in custody and the weapon has been recovered. Shooting occurred in the Science Building at Taft High School. Kern County Sheriff's Office is in the process of evacuating and securing the school.
Kern County sheriff's deputies responded to reports of a school shooting at Taft Union High School today shortly after 9:00 a.m.
Law enforcement officials have confirmed two individuals were injured. One victim was taken to Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield via air ambulance.
That patient's condition is not known at this time. Reports indicate one person is in custody following the incident.
Valley Public Radio will have more information as this story develops.