A student armed with a 12-gauge shotgun entered his classroom at a Southern California high school Thursday morning and shot a classmate, who is in critical but stable condition, and attempted to shoot another one, authorities said at an afternoon press conference.
The gunman was taken into custody after a teacher and campus supervisor intervened and convinced the student to lay down his weapon.
"If it weren't for this teacher and a quick response, we don't know," Kern County Sheriff Don Youngblood said at an afternoon press conference. About 30 students were in the classroom when the gunman entered about halfway through the session.
The teacher who intervened suffered minor injuries—possibly a pellet wound to the head—Youngblood added, while two other students also suffered minor injuries "during the melee of people trying to get out."
Emergency crews responded to the scene—about 120 miles north of Los Angeles (map)—at about 9 a.m. Students were evacuated to a football field, according KGET, and SWAT team members searched the school, room by room.
The shooter—described as a 16-year-old male student who lives near the school—had "a dialogue" with the victim before Thursday morning, Youngblood said. After shooting the first student, the gunman shot at, but missed, a second student as the teacher attempted to "get students out of the classroom."
The teacher and campus supervisor who confronted the gunman have not been identified, but were widely praised by law enforcement officials.
"The heroics go without saying. To stand there and face someone who has a shotgun and has already shot a student—we're very proud of the job they did," Youngblood said.
It was not immediately clear how the student gained access to the weapon, sheriff's officials said. Youngblood said the gunman had "numerous" shotgun shells in his pocket as the teacher and supervisor spoke with him.
"We cannot thank them enough for what they did today," said Taft Police Chief Ed Whiting. "They are really awesome people."
A school security officer is usually assigned to the school, but weather conditions might have prevented the officer from arriving at the campus Thursday, Youngblood added.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a vocal gun control advocate who has pushed for an assault weapon ban in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut last month, said in a statement that her thoughts and prayers were with the victim of this latest shooting.
"I have visited this school over the years—in fact, my own father attended Taft Union," Feinstein said.
"How many more shootings must there be in America before we come to the realization that guns and grievances do not belong together?" she added.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, a Republican whose district includes the town Taft, issued a statement too, on behalf of himself and his wife.
"I am deeply saddened and troubled by news of the shooting," he said. "Judy and I offer our prayers to the victims, their families and the entire Taft community,"
The shooting occurred on the second floor of a science building on the campus, according to Kern County Sheriff's Department.
The high school is located in Taft, a city of about 9,500 residents near a massive oil field at the southwestern edge of the Central Valley.