Monday 20 August 2018

Texas school shooting suspect ‘exchanged lots of fire with police’

Dmitrios Pagourtzis also had several kinds of homemade explosive devices but they were not capable of detonating, county officials said.

Lucrecia Martinez, seven, and her brother Luciano, nine, light candles during a vigil held in the wake of the shooting (Stuart Villanueva/The Galveston County Daily News/AP/PA)
Lucrecia Martinez, seven, and her brother Luciano, nine, light candles during a vigil held in the wake of the shooting (Stuart Villanueva/The Galveston County Daily News/AP/PA)

By Paul J Weber, Associated Press

The suspect accused of attacking a Texas high school exchanged “a lot of firepower” with authorities before he surrendered, a top county official said on Saturday, a day after the shooting in an art classroom that killed 10 people.

In addition to a shotgun and a handgun, Dmitrios Pagourtzis also had several kinds of homemade explosive devices but they were not capable of detonating, said Mark Henry, the Galveston County judge who is the county’s chief administrator.

Investigators found a group of carbon dioxide cannisters taped together and a pressure cooker with an alarm clock and nails inside. However, the cannisters had no detonation device and the pressure cooker had no explosive material, Mr Henry said.

The names of the 10 people who died in the attack were released by the Galveston County medical examiner’s office, with teachers Glenda Perkins and Cynthia Tisdale among the victims.

Eight students were also killed in the incident – Kimberly Vaughan; Shana Fisher; Angelique Ramirez; Christian Riley Garcia; Jared Black; Sabika Sheikh; Christopher Jake Stone; and Aaron Kyle McLeod.

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Dimitrios Pagourtzis was taken into custody and identified as the suspect in the deadly school shooting in Santa Fe (AP)

Authorities offered no motive but they said in a probable-cause affidavit that the suspect had admitted to carrying out the shooting.

The gunman told police that when he opened fire, he avoided shooting students he liked “so he could have his story told”, the affidavit said.

Pagourtzis, who appeared to have no prior arrests or confrontations with law enforcement, made his initial court appearance on murder charges on Friday by video link from the Galveston county jail. A judge denied bond and took his application for a court-appointed lawyer.

The family of Pagourtzis said in a statement issued through lawyers: “We are saddened and dismayed by yesterday’s events at Santa Fe High School. We extend our most heartfelt prayers and condolences to all of the victims. We also wish to thank all the first responders from all over Texas that assisted in rendering aid and support.

“We are as shocked and confused as anyone else by these events that occurred. We are gratified by the public comments made by other Santa Fe High School students that show Dimitri as we know him: a smart, quiet, sweet boy. While we remain mostly in the dark about the specifics of yesterday’s tragedy, what we have learned from media reports seems incompatible with the boy we love.

“We share the public’s hunger for answers as to why this happened, and will await the outcome of the investigation before speaking about these events. We have been and will continue to co-operate with the authorities conducting the investigation, and ask for the public’s patience while it moves forward.

“We ask the public to please extend privacy, both to the victims and to our own family, as all of us try process these events, and begin the healing process.”

The shooting unfolded in Santa Fe, a city of about 13,000 people roughly 30 miles south-east of Houston.

It was the nation’s deadliest such attack since the Florida massacre that killed 17 and energised the teen-led gun-control movement. It was also the deadliest assault in Texas since a man with a semi-automatic rifle attacked a rural church late last year, killing more than two dozen people.

Meanwhile, students were being let back inside Santa Fe High School to gather belongings they abandoned when the gunfire began.

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Students are checked before entering Santa Fe High School David J Phillip/PA)

The school’s roughly 1,400 students will be allowed inside in groups of no more than 10 and would be accompanied by officers, said Walter Braun, the school district’s chief of police.

Although most of the dead had not been publicly identified, relatives and acquaintances said the fatalities included a substitute teacher and a foreign exchange student from Pakistan.

Another 10 people were injured. The wounded included a school police officer who was the first to confront the suspect and got shot in the arm.

Hospitals reported treating a total of 14 people for injuries related to the shooting. Two were listed in critical condition on Saturday at the University of Texas Medical Branch, the hospital tweeted.

Pagourtzis played on the junior varsity football team and was a member of a dance squad with a local Greek Orthodox church. Acquaintances described him as quiet and unassuming as well as being an avid video game player who routinely wore a black trench coat and black boots to class.

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