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Taft shooter was bullied, made prior threats

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The suspect in a school shooting at Taft Union High School north of Los Angeles, was likely a victim of bullying and had prior problems with making threats against other students, according to parents of other children at the school.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - During interviews with Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, reporters repeatedly brought up the issue that the unidentified student and suspect had made threats against other students. Youngblood stated that he had no knowledge of the threats since the investigation had only started.

However, the allegations have been widely reported across social media and by other parents and students from the school.

According to the latest reports, the victim previously bullied the shooter. Youngblood stated in an interview that the two apparently had some prior interactions according to statements made by the shooter after his arrest. These claims are still being evaluated.

If true, the allegations will bring into discussion why the suspect was not barred from the school after making such threats as well as what anti-bullying measures the school has in place, if any.

This could open the school to liability from anyone who can claim harm at either Taft Union High School or the neighboring Lincoln Jr. High School which was also locked down during the incident.

According to a teacher at Lincoln Jr. High who declined to be named, school administrators held a staff meeting the day before where they were told to expect a drill for such incidents. Many assumed when the school was locked down that the event was the expected drill.

"We didn't know what was going on, so I told all the students to get under their desks," the teacher told Catholic Online. "I had to go outside my room to lock the door. When we heard all the sirens and the helicopter we knew something had happened. Some of the kids started crying."

Despite being at the scene, the teacher actually learned the details of the incident via a contact at Catholic Online. "I didn't know what was really happening until then," she said.

Today, classes have been cancelled at the high school, although grief counselors were on site to provide counseling to anyone who needed it. Although nobody was killed, one student seriously wounded and airlifted to a regional hospital.

According to the sheriff, the shooter fired anywhere between two to four rounds at his intended victims who were also students in the class. All but one of the shots missed. As of Friday, the wounded student remains in critical, but stable condition.

Authorities are also applauding the heroism of Ryan Heber, the teacher who talked down the shooter with assistance from a school administrator. Heber was lightly wounded during the incident, having been struck by a stray pellet in the head from the shooter's 12-gauge shotgun. The shooter reportedly stole the shotgun from his brother.

When police arrived, the student was already disarmed. He had dozens of shotgun shells in his pockets suggesting he may have targeted other students. Reports indicate that he named another intended victim to Heber. 

Other students received minor injuries during their evacuation. At least one was treated for hearing loss as a result of being close to the initial shotgun blast.

Youngblood said the shooter would be charged with attempted murder.

However, the end of that case, when it comes, will likely signal the start of a larger civil case against the school district if concerned parents suspect the school was negligent in re-admitting the shooter to school following last year's threats. Parents also say the school has a problem with bullies.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)