California school shooting suspect described as ‘quiet’ Boy Scout who opened fire on classmates on his 16th birthday

A teacher at Saugus High School in California comforting a student after a shooting on Thursday. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
  • A high-school student opened fire on five other students at Saugus High School in California’s Santa Clarita Valley on Thursday, leaving two dead and three others injured.
  • The suspect has been identified as Nathaniel Berhow, the Los Angeles Times and CNN report, citing unnamed law-enforcement sources. He turned 16 on the day of the attack.
  • His neighbours and friends have largely described Berhow as a quiet, unassuming student who was active in varsity cross-country and his local Boy Scout squad, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, and the Associated Press reported.
  • Authorities say the suspect shot himself in the head after the attack and is in critical condition at a hospital.
  • The suspect died on Friday, the Associated Press reported, citing police.
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The suspect in Thursday’s deadly shooting at a California high school died on Friday, police told the Associated Press. After shooting five students – two fatally – the suspect turned the gun on himself and had been in critical condition.

The suspect has been identified as a “quiet” Boy Scout who turned 16 on the day of the attack, according to multiple reports.

The shooting suspect has been identified as Nathaniel Berhow, the Los Angeles Times and CNN report, citing unnamed law-enforcement sources. He turned 16 on Thursday, the Associated Press said.

The police have not publicly identified the shooter because he’s a minor, the AP said.

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Students evacuating Saugus High School after the shooting. YouTube/NBCLA

A 16-second mass shooting

The shooting, which left two students dead and three others injured, took place at about 7:30 a.m. local time Thursday at Saugus High School in the Santa Clarita Valley, north of Los Angeles.

The gunman then shot himself in the head, authorities said. He was taken to a hospital and died on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

The entire incident took place in just 16 seconds, officials said. Surveillance videos showed the suspect pulling a .45-calibre handgun from his backpack and shooting the students before turning the gun on himself, the Los Angeles Times reported Sheriff Alex Villanueva as saying.

Neither a motive for the shooting nor any relationship between the suspect and victims is clear.

There has been no indication that the suspect had been acting on behalf of a particular ideology or group, the AP reported the police as saying.

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Students waiting to be reunited with their parents after Thursday’s shooting. Associated Press/Ringo H.W. Chiu

A quiet, ‘totally normal’ Boy Scout and cross-country runner

Multiple people who grew up with the suspect have described him as unassuming and said they did not expect him to be capable of such violence. His friends called him Nathan, CNN reported.

Brooke Risley, a junior at Saugus High who had known the suspect since elementary school, described him to the AP as “naturally smart” and introverted, though open to his close friends. She also said he wasn’t bullied, had a girlfriend, and was active in his Boy Scout team.

Detectives interviewed the suspect’s girlfriend and his mother at a Santa Clarita police station shortly after the shooting,The New York Times reported, citing Capt. Kent Wegener of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Students escorted out of Saugus High School after the shooting. Associated Press/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Joe Fitzpatrick, a senior at the school, also called him a “good, quiet kid” who did well academically, the AP reported.

Ryan McCracken, a neighbour who had grown up with Berhow, told the AP the suspect was “a quiet, to-himself kid” and said: “You wouldn’t expect anything like that from him.”

Brizio DelRosario, who ran with Berhow on a junior varsity cross-country team, also told CNN that Berhow was “totally normal” and not a “weird kid.”

“The last time I saw him was at a race about two weeks ago, he was totally normal,” DelRosario said. “I started next to him and he wished me luck.”

Another friend of Berhow, who asked not to be named, told CNN that he knew Berhow had access to guns and had grown up around them but that nobody had worried because he was responsible and knew how to use them.

The friend also described Berhow’s mother as “the sweetest woman I’ve ever met,” CNN reported. Another neighbour told the Los Angeles Times that the family “were wonderful, wonderful people.”

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The police searching a home in connection with Thursday’s shooting. KTTV-TV via Associated Press

Jared Axen, a neighbour of the family, told the Los Angeles Times that Berhow’s father used to hunt elk and that the Berhow would occasionally tag along on those trips.

Axen added that he and the younger Berhow sometimes shot cans with air pistols and two weeks ago had spoken briefly about the teen’s plans to go to college.

Berhow’s father died of a sudden heart attack at home in December 2017, according to an online obituary. He was a licensed pilot and “loved big game hunting and fishing of all kinds,” the obituary said. The younger Berhow had been heavily affected by the death, CNN reported a neighbour as saying.

In 2015, Berhow’s father was arrested on suspicion of attempted battery on a spouse, but authorities eventually declined to charge him because of insufficient evidence, the Los Angeles Times reported.