17-Year-Old Suspect Held Without Bail In Texas School Shooting

May 20, 2018
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In Santa Fe, Texas, people are still trying to comprehend why a 17-year-old boy went on a shooting rampage Friday morning at his high school. Police say he killed two teachers and eight fellow students. Thirteen more were injured, according to the FBI, including a policeman who is being hailed as a hero for confronting him. Officials say the boy has admitted to the killings, and he's being held without bond on capital murder charges. NPR's John Burnett has the latest from Texas.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: It's starting to sink in - the meaningless deaths of 10 beloved people who were inside the sprawling, red-and-tan-brick high school that's at the center of community life here in this Gulf Coast town. Now comes the anger.

DEBORAH RINEHART: I'm just sick of it. I'm sick of all this.

BURNETT: Deborah Rinehart (ph) brought her grandson and granddaughter, who both attend Santa Fe schools, to say a prayer at a small, makeshift memorial for the dead on a grassy lawn next to a bank.

RINEHART: The children can't get to school. You know, you have to go pick them up because other children have been killed. It's not right. These kids deserve better than that.

BURNETT: The parents of Dimitrios Pagourtzis released a statement yesterday. We're as shocked and confused as anyone else, they said. What we've learned from media reports seems incompatible with the boy we love. Investigators say that Pagourtzis, a quiet boy who wore a black trench coat, used a shotgun and a handgun that belonged to his father to slaughter his classmates. The area's congressman, Randy Weber, spoke at a press briefing yesterday next to the high school. He noted that this area was also ground zero for Hurricane Harvey last August.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

RANDY WEBER: We will grieve together. We will love one another. We'll work together. We did it after Harvey, still doing it after Harvey. We'll do it after this.

BURNETT: The Republican rep once called President Obama a socialist dictator. His politics fit well in this district where many constituents work in the petrochemical plants around Galveston Bay during the week, go angling for flounder and redfish on weekends and cherish their firearms. After the presser, Weber pointed out that at 17 you're an adult in Texas. A reporter asked him whether someone that young should be able to have a gun.

WEBER: Well, on their own property, yes. And when they go hunting, yes. And under the supervision of a parent, yes. But when they take that gun to leave their property without supervision, the parents - especially in this instance to do harm, absolutely not.

BURNETT: Out on the highway as TV reporters broke down their camera tripods, Carissa Potts (ph) was placing flowers and a sign that read praying for Santa Fe on a tree in front of the high school. She'd driven down from Houston with her daughter. As a parent, Potts thinks a focus on guns, after this latest shooting spree, is misplaced.

CARISSA POTTS: I mean, we could take away the guns from all the people who have, you know, their constitutional right to have guns. It starts at home. We need to pay more attention to our kids. We need to spend more time with our kids. We need to - you know, we need to be aware of what's going on in their lives.

BURNETT: On Saturday, authorities released names of the 10 who were slain. So let us now remember Christopher Jake Stone, a husky 17-year-old junior who played center for the Santa Fe Indians. Students say Chris and another boy blocked the door to prevent the shooter from entering the art classroom. The gunman reportedly shot through a glass door and hit Chris Stone in the chest. His big sister Angelica agreed to speak outside of her grandparents' house, where the family had gathered under a shade tree to mourn.

ANGELICA STONE: He was an amazing son, amazing brother. I don't know one person that has a bad thing to say about him. So protective of us. He was our little protector, which is why I think he was in the situation that he was because he was protecting those kids in that room, as well. Other than that, I mean, so adventurous. Me and him and my sister - we'd go traveling together. That was our favorite thing to do. And, I mean, that's it. I mean, he was just a normal kid, but he was a very special person to me and my family. And everyone knows he touched them.

BURNETT: Angelica says Chris was happy the day he died. He'd put on a tux and gone to the junior prom with his girlfriend last weekend. He'd been on a class trip to a water park on Thursday. When his family heard there'd been a fatal shooting at school, they called and called him. But there was no answer.

STONE: We were looking for him all day. Went from hospital to hospital just hoping and praying. But the important part is that we know now that we can all move through it as a family together. We have a lot of support from this community - so much.

BURNETT: Chris Stone's family has an anecdote they want to share. After the school massacre in Parkland, Fla., in February, his mother asked her son what he would do if there was an active shooter at his high school. He told her, if I couldn't escape, I would do everything I could to slow the shooter down and save students.

John Burnett, NPR News, Santa Fe, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.