Los Angeles Times
SANTEE, Calif. Carrying a black revolver and wearing an enigmatic smile, a tiny 15-year-old boy opened fire on the campus of a suburban San Diego high school yesterday morning, killing two students and injuring 13 other people in a lightning assault at the start of the school day.
Charles Andy Williams terrorized Santana High School, firing randomly inside a bathroom and around a courtyard, reloading at least two times as students, teachers and staff members dived and scrambled for cover, authorities and witnesses said.
Finally cornered in the restroom where the shooting spree began, the slight boy known as “Andy” surrendered meekly, just a few minutes after he first opened fire. “It”s only me,” he told sheriff”s deputies, who were momentarily concerned that there might be a second gunman.
The pop and echo of gunfire had barely faded when a portrait of gut-wrenching familiarity began to emerge: Friends and classmates said Williams was a disaffected and unhappy young man, frequently taunted by his peers. He had told other teen-agers and at least one adult as recently as last weekend that he was prepared to go on a shooting rampage on campus. But he laughed it off and, mostly, so did they.
Two friends were so concerned by the threats that they confronted Williams at a fast-food restaurant before school yesterday and frisked him for weapons. But they were appeased when they didn”t find any guns and Williams insisted that he had only been joking.
They could only guess later that Williams” weapon, a .22-caliber revolver, might have been hidden in his yellow backpack.
A highly placed law enforcement source said prosecutors were “exploring friends who may have planned to participate in this but backed out at that last minute. If that can be confirmed, there was the potential for even greater mayhem.”
San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst said late yesterday that he did not believe the victims were “targeted” in retaliation for any recent skirmishes with the shooter.
Williams was being held at a county Juvenile Hall. Pfingst said the teen-ager would normally face 25 years to life if convicted with special circumstances. However, he said that sentence could be enhanced by 10 to 20 years for each additional count of attempted murder. Pfingst said his office did not contemplate bringing any charges against Williams” parents.
Authorities said they were methodically interviewing dozens of students and other witnesses, with 36 sheriff”s investigators leading the effort, assisted by agents from both the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
According to one report, authorities had already served a search warrant at the house where the boy lived with his father. The results of the search were unknown.
San Diego County law enforcement officials identified the dead students as Brian Zuckor, 14, and Randy Gordon, 15. The wounded students were identified as Karla Leyva, Barry Gibson, Scott Marshal, Travis Tate-Gallegos, Trevor Edwards, Melissa McNulty, Raymond Serrato, Heather Cruz, James Jackson, Triston Salladay and Matthew Heier. Two adults, security guard Pete Ruiz and student teacher Tim Estes, were also wounded.
The shooting began during a short break between the 1,900-student campus” first and second class periods, during which many students move between classes and others are arriving on campus.
At first the strange popping sounds coming from a boys bathroom near a campus quad seemed too incongruous to be gunfire. At the first shouts that they might be gunshots, many students laughed it off. But as others began to fall and blood flowed onto the concrete quad, the shooting became too real.
“He went fire-happy basically,” Heather Noble, a 15-year-old sophomore, said of Williams. “People were tripping over tree trunks, throwing backpacks and screaming, running. There were a lot of “Oh my Gods.””
It was as if, Noble said, someone had sprayed water on a line of ants. “People were running all over the place,” she said. “That is what it looked like … ants.”
It was the nation”s deadliest school attack since two Columbine High School students in Colorado killed 12 classmates and then themselves two years ago.
Expressions of regret and anger poured in from around the country. In Washington, President Bush called the shooting “a disgraceful act of cowardice.”
California Gov. Gray Davis, whose wife once attended the school, said the attack hit particularly close to home. “Sharon and I are shocked and deeply saddened by this tragedy,” he said.
Authorities said they had no evidence that anyone aided Williams in the shooting rampage. They said that under a new state law approved by voters last year the suspect would automatically be tried as an adult. Because the crime involved a multiple killing, he would be subject to the death penalty.
Like many other schools in the wake of recent school shootings, Santana had tried to prepare itself and be on watch for troubled students. But despite that work on campus and seemingly ample warnings about the troubled youth, it appeared that school officials had never been told about the threats.
Williams had spent Saturday night at the home of a friend, Josh Stevens. Stevens” mother”s boyfriend, who was in the home that night, said yesterday that he had heard the boy threaten to go on a shooting rampage.
But the boyfriend, Chris Reynolds, said later that he couldn”t be sure the boy was serious. Reynolds said he warned the youth that he would call sheriff”s deputies if he got any inkling he would follow through.
“I should”ve stepped up even if it wasn”t true and stuff to take that precaution,” said Reynolds, 29. “That”s going to be haunting me for a long time that”s going to be with me for a long time. It just hurts, because I could”ve maybe done something about it.”
Authorities would not confirm a report from another of Williams” friends: that the young man”s father had several guns, apparently locked in a gun case. He had told some friends that these were the guns he would use in the shooting rampage, said Dustin Hopkins, 15. But then he would back down, saying he was joking and that he didn”t even have a key to get to the weapons.