On Nov. 19, around 7:30 a.m., a 16-year-old student opened fire in a common meeting area of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California. In a matter of seconds, three students were injured and two were killed. After the attack, the assailant shot himself and died in a hospital the next day. As a result of the suspect’s death, detectives are unclear of the motives behind the shooting.
According to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the teen made his way into the school’s quad area. There, he retrieved a .45-caliber pistol and without saying a word, shot one round at a student. After clearing a weapon jam, he then fired four additional rounds at others before he turning the weapon on himself. “That ended it all in 16 seconds,” Villaneuva stated.
A detective and two off-duty officers from Los Angeles and Inglewood, who had just dropped off their children, were the first people to arrive at the scene. It took only minutes for police to arrive at the high school. “It’s a tragedy every way you look at it, but there’s a silver lining behind this; the fact that off-duty first responders were there and did not hesitate … and they rendered first aid immediately,” stated Villanueva.
Captain Kent Wegener of the Sheriff’s Department homicide unit claimed that after 40 interviews and a search of the shooter’s home, authorities are still unsure of the motives behind the shooting. “We did not find any manifesto, any diary that spelled it out, any suicide note or any writings,” he said.
One girl who knew him for years said he wasn’t bullied and had a girlfriend. “I’ve known him since I was five,” student Joshua Mourthi told KABC-TV. “So, he used to be my neighbor. He could make anyone smile. You could be having the worst day and he’d walk up and say, ‘Hey, how’s your day going?’ and you’d immediately start smiling.” Another classmate said, “He just seemed like one of those regular kids.” Friends and neighbors described him as bright, funny, quiet and normal.
Authorities have only two pieces of information: The suspect’s birthday was on the day of the shooting and his father passed away in 2017.
Over the weekend, two girls, ages 14 and 15, were released from the hospital after making full recoveries from gunshot wounds to the torso. A 14-year-old boy was treated and released over the weekend as well. The two victims, 15-year-old Grace Anne Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell, passed away at the hospital on the day of the shooting.
In a statement, Bryan and Cindy Muehlberger said they experienced the news of their daughter’s death with “unexplainable brokenness.” They described her as their “Cinderella, the daughter we always dreamed to have,” and said her two brothers were heartbroken. “She will never get to drive a car, fall in love, build a career, get married, have children and do all the other things everyone takes for granted in this short thing called life,” they said.
In an interview with CNN, one of the survivors stated, “I definitely wasn’t surprised when it happened. Of course, it was very hard and a traumatic experience, but with the state of America right now; with gun control not being strict enough; with kids being able to access guns so easily, it didn’t surprise me.”
On Sunday evening, a candlelight vigil was held in remembrance of the two students who were killed on the day of the tragedy. The event took place in Santa Clarita’s Central Park. The high school will be closed until Dec. 2; however, care from counselors will be available for those coping with grief.
Local police are still investigating origins of the pistol the shooter used and his motivation for the attack.