First wave of Central American migrants arrives in Mexico City

Migrants, part of a caravan traveling en route to the United States, queue to receive food as they stay in a sport center used as shelter in Arriaga, Mexico November 4, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The first Central American migrants from a caravan traveling through Mexico toward the United States in hopes of seeking asylum arrived in Mexico City on Sunday, taking up temporary shelter at a sports stadium.

More than 1,000 Central Americans, many fleeing gang violence and financial hardship in their home countries, bedded down at the stadium where the city government set up medical aid and food kitchens.

Ahead of U.S. congressional elections this Tuesday, President Donald Trump has warned repeatedly about the advance of the caravan and ordered thousands of troops to the Mexican border, where units strung up razor wire this weekend.

The migrants arrived in the capital, nearly 500 miles (805 kilometers) from the closest border crossings in Texas, four weeks after setting out from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula.

“Our heads are set at getting to the United States, to fulfill the American dream,” said Mauricio Mancilla, who traveled with his six-year old son from San Pedro Sula. “We have faith in God that we will do this, whatever the circumstances.”

Thousands more Central Americans were moving in groups in the Gulf state of Veracruz, the central state of Puebla and in the southern state of Chiapas, local media reported.

“This is an exodus,” Alejandro Solalinde, a Catholic priest and migrant rights activist, told reporters. “It’s without precedent.”

The U.S. government has pressured Mexico to halt the advance of the migrants and President Enrique Pena Nieto has offered temporary identification papers and jobs if they register for asylum in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

Mexico’s government said on Saturday it was processing nearly 2,800 asylum requests and that around 1,100 Central Americans had been deported.

At the capital’s famed shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, a group of Mexican volunteers called out on bullhorns, offering bus rides to migrants to the stadium.

Cesar Gomez, a 20-year old Guatemalan, said he jumped at joining the caravan to avoid the dangers of traveling alone and paying thousands of dollars to human smugglers.

“This was a good opportunity,” he said as he waited for a ride. “The first thing is to try for the United States. If not, maybe I will stay here.”

(Reporting by Josue Gonzalez, Stefanie Eschenbacher and Alberto Fajardo; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Man deported six times charged with murder in California bludgeonings

Ramon Escobar, 47, appears in a booking photo provided by the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 27, 2018. Harris County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

By Steve Gorman and Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A man who police said fled to California from Texas after being questioned in the disappearance of two relatives was charged on Wednesday in Los Angeles with bludgeoning eight men, three fatally, in a string of attacks aimed mostly at homeless victims.

Ramon Alberto Escobar, 47, an El Salvador native and convicted burglar who has been repeatedly deported from the United States, was arrested on Monday after he allegedly clubbed a sleeping man in the head with bolt-cutters in the ocean-front city of Santa Monica, authorities said.

Seven other men were similarly attacked in Santa Monica and Los Angeles earlier this month, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Police have said one victim was sleeping under a pier after a night of fishing and that most of the rest of the victims were homeless, including three men battered with a baseball bat in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 16.

Two of those victims and the man attacked beneath the pier died of their injuries. Some survivors were left in a coma.

On Wednesday, the district attorney’s office formally charged Escobar with three counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and four counts of robbery. If convicted of murder, he faces a minimum sentence of life without parole.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said Tuesday that Escobar had been deported back to El Salvador six times between 1977 and 2011 and has six felony convictions for burglary and illegal re-entry. Police have said he spent five years in a Texas prison for burglary from 1995 to 2000.

Escobar in 2016 filed an appeal of his immigration case, which U.S. courts granted in December of that year, and he was released from ICE custody on an “order of supervision” in January 2017, ICE spokesperson Paige Hughes said by email.

Escobar, now jailed without bond, briefly appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, but the arraignment was postponed until Nov. 8. No plea was entered.

Judge Gustavo Sztraicher granted a defense motion barring public dissemination of the defendant’s image, including by photograph or courtroom sketch drawing, so as not to prejudice potential witnesses who might identify him for prosecutors.

Escobar appeared expressionless and said nothing except to answer, “Yes, sir,” when asked if he agreed to the postponement.

Defense lawyers declined to speak to reporters.

Meanwhile, police in Houston said Escobar was a “person of interest” in the investigation into the disappearance of an aunt and uncle with whom Escobar lived before they were reported missing in late August by other relatives.

The aunt’s van was later found burned and abandoned in Galveston, Texas, according to Houston police spokesman Kese Smith.

Escobar was questioned by Houston homicide detectives on Aug. 30, but they lacked probable cause to detain him at the time, Smith told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that Houston detectives would seek to “re-interview” Escobar in California.

Hayes said Escobar “fled” Texas by car soon after he was questioned in Houston, arriving in Los Angeles on Sept. 5. The first attack police linked to him occurred three days later.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker)

Texan running 3-D printed guns company apprehended in Taiwan

Cody Wilson appears in a handout photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, September 21, 2018. U.S. Marshals Service/Handout via REUTERS

By Jon Herskovitz and Yimou Lee

AUSTIN, Texas/TAIPEI (Reuters) – A Texan running a 3-D printed guns company who flew to Taiwan as police investigated an accusation that he had sex with an underage girl was apprehended in Taipei on Friday after U.S. authorities annulled his passport, officials said.

Cody Wilson, 30, was taken to immigration authorities in the capital by officers from Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, according to local media reports and an official from the bureau who asked not to be named. However, two Taiwanese officials denied Wilson was arrested or in custody. His exact status was unclear.

Wilson, who is at the center of a U.S. legal battle over his plan to publish instructions for the manufacture of 3-D printed plastic guns, flew into Taiwan legally, the country’s National Immigration Agency said in a statement on Friday. Because his U.S. passport was later annulled, the agency’s statement said, he “no longer has the legal status to stay in Taiwan.”

A lawyer for Wilson, as well as representatives of the Austin Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service, were not immediately available for comment on Friday.

Taiwan does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Austin police have said Wilson flew to Taiwan earlier this month after a friend told him officers were investigating an allegation by a 16-year-old girl who said she was paid $500 to have sex with him at a hotel in the Texas capital.

Police said investigators interviewed the girl and on Wednesday obtained a warrant for Wilson’s arrest, but he had flown to Taiwan by then.

Police said they are aware that Wilson travels often for business, but that they do not know why he went to Taiwan.

Wilson is the founder of Defense Distributed, the focus of a legal and political battle over its placing on the internet blueprints for plastic guns that can be made with a 3-D printer.

The files could previously be downloaded for free, but a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction last month that blocked the posting of the blueprints online.

Gun control proponents are concerned that such weapons will be untraceable, undetectable “ghost” firearms that pose a threat to global security.

Some gun rights groups say the technology is expensive, the guns are unreliable and the threat is overblown.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee in Taipei and Gina Cherelus in New York; editing by Bill Berkrot)

Tropical Storm Gordon hits southern Florida, spins toward U.S. Gulf Coast

FILE PHOTO: Homes sit on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico in the Myrtle Grove Estates development in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, U.S. October 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jessica Resnick-Ault/File Photo

By Jon Herskovitz and Rich McKay

(Reuters) – A tropical storm whipped the southern tip of Florida with high winds and rain on Monday morning and was forecast to gain strength as it passed over the Gulf of Mexico toward Louisiana, officials said.

Tropical Storm Gordon was forecast to drop as much as 8 inches (20 cm) of rain in some areas of the U.S. South still reeling from hurricanes a year ago.

The storm was generating winds of 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) on Monday as it steamed west-northwest at 17 miles an hour (27 km/h), National Hurricane Center Director Kenneth Graham said in a video briefing on Facebook.

“It looks like for the next three or four days we’re going to be having to really watch close,” Graham said, “and remember if you’re even inland you can get some of these heavy rainfall totals so now is the time to be prepared.”

Last year, hurricanes walloped Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, causing thousands of deaths, hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, massive power outages and devastation to hundreds of thousands of structures.

The National Hurricane Center warned of high winds around parts of Florida as the storm passed over the southern tip of the state on Monday morning.

The storm was expected to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico, and reach the central Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana late on Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

At the mouth of the Mississippi River, around the area of New Orleans, the storm could generate a surge of up to 4 feet (1 meter) and smaller surges could hit coastland along other parts of the Gulf Coast, Graham said.

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the National Hurricane Center said in a statement.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Sunday he had activated the state’s Crisis Action Team as a precaution.

There were no immediate indications that the storm had affected energy operations in the Gulf of Mexico area.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank McGurty and Andrea Ricci)

Texas pipeline blaze put out after seven hospitalized; explosions probed

A pipeline explosion erupts in this image captured from video by a field worker in Midland County, the home to the Permian Basin and the largest U.S. oilfield, in Texas, U.S., August 1, 2018. Courtesy Marty Baeza/Handout via REUTERS

By Gary McWilliams

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Authorities on Thursday were investigating what caused a fire and a series of natural gas pipeline explosions in Midland County, Texas, which sent seven people to the hospital on Wednesday and shut down five lines before being extinguished late in the evening.

Workers and firefighters were responding to a leak when the blast occurred, Midland County Fire Marshal Dale Little said on Thursday. The cause of the original explosions has not been determined, he said.

Five workers with critical injuries were airlifted to University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, and were being treated at the center’s burn unit.

One man remained in critical condition and three others were upgraded to serious condition, all with burn injuries, medical center spokesman Eric Finley said on Thursday.

The fifth pipeline worker, a Kinder Morgan Inc employee, was listed in stable condition at the hospital, a company spokeswoman said.

Two firefighters responding to the blaze also were taken to hospital on Wednesday for treatment of burn injuries, said Elana Ladd, public information officer for the city of Midland.

Ladd said the pipeline explosions occurred just outside the city of Midland on a rural road, FM 1379, about five miles (8 km) south of Highway 158.

Marty Baeza, a Fort Stockton, Texas oilfield worker who was working at a site about a half mile (0.8 km) from the explosion, said the blast shook the water-treatment unit where he was working.

“It felt like someone had bumped us,” said Baeza. He went outside and saw a large fireball that lit the sky for about five minutes. Firefighters arrived quickly, he said.

Kinder Morgan’s El Paso Natural Gas (EPNG) line was damaged by the blaze, but service impacts are expected to be minimal, spokeswoman Sara Hughes said in an email. The company believes the problem started with a nearby pipeline.

“There was a third-party pipeline involved that also experienced a failure, and preliminary indications are that the third-party line failure occurred before the EPNG line failure,” Hughes said.

Authorities on Thursday morning said they were not able to identify the operators of the other pipelines affected by the blast.

Oil and gas pipelines crisscross Midland County, which is located in the Permian Basin, the largest U.S. oilfield. The explosions affected five pipelines which share a transit channel and which were all shut in by operators, a Midland city official said on Wednesday.

Gas prices at the Waha hub, in the Permian basin, increased by 13 cents, or about 6 percent, on Wednesday to $2.23 per million British thermal units, although much of the trade that day would have occurred before the fire, which started at around 11:14 a.m. CDT (1614 GMT).

Thomson Reuters data showed that as of Thursday, the explosions had not affected overall flows of natural gas in Midland County, including on Kinder Morgan’s EPNG pipeline.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)

Two U.S. military bases in Texas to house immigrants: Mattis

Honduran families seeking asylum wait on the Mexican side of the Brownsville-Matamoros International Bridge after being denied entry by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers near Brownsville, Texas, U.S., June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

By Phil Stewart

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (Reuters) – The U.S. military is preparing to house immigrants at two bases in Texas, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday, the latest sign of the military being drawn into a supporting role for President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Fort Bliss, an Army base in El Paso, Texas, and Goodfellow Air Base in San Angelo, Texas, would be used, Mattis said, but he added that he could not confirm any specifics.

“We’ll provide whatever support the Department of Homeland Security needs in order to house the people they have under their custody,” Mattis told reporters in Alaska before leaving on an Asia trip.

In the face of outrage at home and overseas over his crackdown on illegal immigration, Trump was forced last week to abandon his policy of separating children from parents who are apprehended for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. military, and Mattis in particular, have stressed that it is simply providing logistical support to the Department of Homeland Security, which deals with immigration issues.

“We’re not going to get into the political aspect. Providing housing, shelter for those who need it is a legitimate governmental function,” Mattis said.

One U.S. official, speaking earlier on the condition of anonymity, said it was expected that one of the bases would house immigrant families and another immigrant children.

On Sunday, Mattis said the U.S. military was preparing to build temporary camps at two military bases to house immigrants but did not name the facilities.

Last week, the U.S. military said it had been asked by the government to get ready to house up to 20,000 immigrant children.

Trump has previously turned to the military to help with his border crackdown. Earlier this year, U.S. National Guard forces were dispatched to border states to help tighten security.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; additional reporting by Idrees Ali and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Grant McCool)

Texas school shooter ‘nonemotional,’ lawyer says as motive sought

Christian Cardenas 10, helps Jaydon Johnson 8, light a candle during a vigil for the victims of a shooting at Santa Fe High School that left several dead and injured in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Pu Ying Huang

By Erwin Seba

SANTA FE, Texas (Reuters) – The 17-year-old student charged with killing 10 people when he opened fire in an art class at his Houston-area high school appeared “weirdly nonemotional” on the morning after the rampage, one of his lawyers said on Saturday.

The teenager, identified by law enforcement as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, has been charged with capital murder and is being held without bail in Santa Fe, Texas, where authorities said he went on a shooting spree shortly before 8 a.m. CDT on Friday.

In addition to 10 fatalities, the gunman wounded at least 13 people, with two of them in critical condition. One of those in critical condition was one of the two school resource officers who engaged the shooter before his surrender.

For graphic on the timeline of major mass shootings in the United States since 2007 click https://tmsnrt.rs/2LfKug6

Nicholas Poehl, one of two lawyers hired by the suspect’s parents to represent him, told Reuters he had spent a total of one hour with Pagourtzis on Friday night and Saturday morning.

“He’s very emotional and weirdly nonemotional,” the attorney said when asked to describe his client’s state of mind. “There are aspects of it he understands and there are aspects he doesn’t understand.”

As the shooting unfolded, Pagourtzis spared people he liked so he could have his side of the story told, a charging document showed.

While authorities have given no indication why he apparently targeted the art class, a mother of one of the victims told the Los Angeles Times that her daughter, Shana Fisher, 16, had rejected four months of aggressive advances from Pagourtzis.

Fisher finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class, the newspaper quoted her mother Sadie Rodriguez as writing in a private message to the Times.

“A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,” she said. “Shana being the first one.”

Rodriguez did not say how she knew her daughter was the first victim, according to the newspaper.

Rodriguez could not independently be reached for comment.

FAMILY OF SHOOTER SPEAKS

Pagourtzis’ family said in a statement they were “saddened and dismayed” by the shooting and “as shocked as anyone else” by the events. They said they are cooperating with authorities.

“While we remain mostly in the dark about the specifics of (Friday’s) tragedy, what we have learned from media reports seems incompatible with the boy we love,” the family said.

Investigators had seen a photo of a T-shirt that read “Born to Kill” on the suspect’s Facebook page and authorities were examining his journal, Texas Governor Greg Abbott told reporters, but there were no outward signs he had been planning an attack.

Pagourtzis waived his right to remain silent and made a statement to authorities admitting to the shooting, according to an affidavit ahead of his arrest.

Asked if Pagourtzis had provided authorities with information about the shootings, Poehl said: “Honestly because of his emotional state, I don’t have a lot on that.”

Candles line a table during a vigil held at the Texas First Bank after a shooting left several people dead at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Trish Badger

Candles line a table during a vigil held at the Texas First Bank after a shooting left several people dead at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Trish Badger

STUDENTS RETRIEVE BELONGINGS

Santa Fe High School, southeast of Houston, became the scene of the fourth-deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. public school in modern history, joining a long list of campuses where students and faculty have fallen victim to gunfire.

The Texas rampage again stoked the country’s long-running debate over gun ownership, three months after a student-led gun control movement emerged from a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 teens and educators dead.

Students and faculty, bussed on to campus in small groups, were allowed to enter the high school on Saturday to retrieve belongings, though investigators closed off part of the grounds. Police kept reporters about 100 yards (91 meters) away.

All schools in the Santa Fe school district will remain closed on Monday and Tuesday, officials said.

In a letter to parents dated Friday but posted on the district’s website on Saturday, Superintendent Leigh Wall said eight of the dead were students and two were teachers. Authorities had earlier said that nine students and one teacher were killed.

National Football League star J.J. Watt, who plays defensive end for the Houston Texans, said he will pay for the funerals of the deceased, local media reported.

“Absolutely horrific,” he tweeted about the shooting.

Aziz Shaikh (L), father of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, who was killed with others when a gunman attacked Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., comforts a relative in Karachi, Pakistan May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Aziz Shaikh (L), father of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, who was killed with others when a gunman attacked Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., comforts a relative in Karachi, Pakistan May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

‘QUIET LONER’ IN A TRENCH COAT

Classmates at the school of some 1,460 students described Pagourtzis as a quiet loner who played on the football team. On Friday, they said he wore a trench coat to school on a day when temperatures topped 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).

Texas’ governor told reporters that Pagourtzis obtained firearms from his father, who had likely acquired them legally, and also left behind explosive devices.

Abbott said Pagourtzis wanted to commit suicide, citing the suspect’s journals, but did not have the courage to do so.

Some aspects of the shooting had echoes of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. The two teenaged killers in that incident wore trench coats, used shotguns and planted improvised explosives, killing 10 before committing suicide themselves.

It was the second mass shooting in Texas in less than seven months. A man armed with an assault rifle shot dead 26 people during Sunday prayers at a rural church last November.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Writing by Frank McGurty; editing by Daniel Wallis, Matthew Lewis and G Crosse)

Spurned advances provoked Texas school shooting, victim’s mother says

Candles are lit behind images of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School during a vigil in League City, Texas, U.S., May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

By Liz Hampton

SANTA FE, Texas (Reuters) – A teenage boy charged with fatally shooting eight students and two teachers during a gun rampage at a Houston-area high school had been spurned by one of his victims after making aggressive advances, her mother told a newspaper.

Sadie Rodriguez, the mother of Shana Fisher, 16, who was killed in the attack, told the Los Angeles Times that her daughter rejected four months of aggressive advances from Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, who is in jail accused of murdering 10 people early on Friday at the high school in Santa Fe.

Fisher finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class, the newspaper quoted her mother as writing in a private message to the Times.

(For graphic on timeline of major mass shootings in the United States since 2007 click https://tmsnrt.rs/2LfKug6)

“A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,” she said. “Shana being the first one.”

Rodriguez could not independently be reached for comment.

If true, it would be the second school shooting in recent months driven by such rejection.

In March, a 17-year-old Maryland high school student used his father’s gun to fatally shoot a female student with whom he had been in a recently ended relationship.

Police said Pagourtzis confessed to Friday’s killings after he was taken into custody, but authorities have offered no motive yet for the massacre, the fourth-deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. public school in modern history.

The Santa Fe Independent School District (ISD) denied accounts from some classmates that Pagourtzis had been bullied, including by a football coach.

“Administration looked into these claims and confirmed that these reports are untrue,” it said on Saturday in a statement.

Classmates at the school, which has some 1,460 students, described Pagourtzis as a quiet loner who played on the football team. He wore a black trench coat to school in the Texas heat on Friday and opened fire with a pistol and shotgun.

Mourners attend a vigil in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in League City, Texas, U.S., May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Mourners attend a vigil in memory of the victims killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in League City, Texas, U.S., May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

‘THE AFTERMATH’

In Santa Fe on Sunday, many churches and businesses had signs outside with messages such as “Santa Fe strong” and “Santa Fe ISD we are here for you.”

About 100 people attended an emotional service at the Aldersgate United Methodist Church. Service dogs were in a nearby hall to help console grieving victims.

Jared Black, one of the students killed, attended a youth group at the church, and many of its members embraced his mother Pam when the family arrived.

At a mosque in another Houston suburb, mourners crowded around the coffin of 17-year-old Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student who died in the rampage.

It was the latest rampage to stoke a long-running national debate over gun ownership, three months after a student-led gun control movement emerged from a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 teens and educators.

Many of those student activists have taken aim at the pro-gun National Rifle Association.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” NRA President Oliver North said students should not be afraid to attend class, but that his gun-rights advocacy group did not think the solution was to limit the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“I believe that we can make sure kids are protected without taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens,” North said, calling for metal detectors in schools and more use of the NRA’s offer to schools of free security assessments.

Pagourtzis has provided authorities little information about the shootings, his attorney, Nicholas Poehl, said, adding: “Honestly because of his emotional state, I don’t have a lot on that.”

Texas’ governor, Greg Abbott, a Republican, told reporters that Pagourtzis obtained the firearms from his father, who had likely acquired them legally.

Abbott also said Pagourtzis wanted to commit suicide, citing the suspect’s journals, but lacked the courage to do so.

Pagourtzis’ family said in a statement it was “saddened and dismayed” by the shooting and “as shocked as anyone else” by the events. The family said it was cooperating with authorities.

(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Additional reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston and Ian Simpson in Washington; Writing by Rich McKay and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Peter Cooney)

Teen gunman who killed 10 at Texas school planned suicide: governor

Police keep a roadblock on a main road to Santa Fe High School where police found explosives after an early morning shool shooting that left several people dead in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Trish Badger

By Liz Hampton and Erwin Seba

SANTA FE, Texas (Reuters) – Texas officials charged a 17-year-old student with murder in the shooting of 10 people, including fellow pupils, at his high school on Friday in an attack similar to the massacre at a Florida high school earlier this year.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the suspect in the Santa Fe High School shooting is shown in this booking photo at the Galveston County Jail, released by the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, U.S., May 18, 2018. Courtesy Galveston County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS

Students said a gunman, identified by law enforcement as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, opened fire in a classroom at Santa Fe High School shortly before 8 a.m. CT (1300 GMT) on Friday, and that they fled in panic after seeing classmates wounded and a fire alarm triggered a full evacuation. Ten people were hurt in the attack, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said.

It was the latest in a long series of deadly shootings at U.S. schools. Seventeen teens and educators were shot dead at a Parkland, Florida, high school in February, a massacre that stirred the nation’s long-running debate over gun ownership.

The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office identified Pagourtzis and said he had been charged with capital murder in a post on its Facebook page. More charges could follow.

Speaking to reporters before the teen was identified, Abbott told reporters that the suspect had used a shotgun and a .38 revolver taken from his father in the fourth-deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. public school.

“Not only did he want to commit the shooting, but he wanted to commit suicide after the shooting,” Abbott said, citing a police review of the suspect’s journals. “He didn’t have the courage to commit suicide.”

Two other people are in custody, Abbott said.

Investigators are talking to the suspect, Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said.

Abbott said that investigators had seen a T-shirt on the suspect’s Facebook page that read “Born to Kill.”

Explosive devices had also been found at the school, located about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Houston, and off campus, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted.

Police were searching two homes and a vehicle linked to the suspect, where they have found multiple homemade explosive devices, Abbott said.

First responders following a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, May 18, 2018. Courtesy Harris County Sheriff's Office/via REUTERS

First responders following a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, May 18, 2018. Courtesy Harris County Sheriff’s Office/via REUTERS

‘THE GUY BEHIND ME WAS DEAD’

Courtney Marshall, a 15-year-old freshman at the school, said the gunman came into her art class shooting.

“I wanted to take care of my friends, but I knew I had to get out of there,” Marshall said, saying that she saw at least one person hit. “I knew the guy behind me was dead.”

Orlando Gonzalez said that his 16-year-old son Keaton, fled the attack, but one of his friends was shot and wounded.

“I was really worried, I didn’t know what was going on … I almost couldn’t drive,” Gonzalez said. “I just imagine what he’s going through … He’s still scared.”

The school has some 1,462 students, according to federal education data.

U.S. President Donald Trump called the latest school massacre “absolutely horrific.”

“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others,” Trump said at the White House.

Days after the Parkland shooting, Trump said that elected officials should be ready to “fight” the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group. Early this month he embraced that group, telling its annual meeting in Dallas “your Second Amendment rights are under siege.”

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms.

No major federal gun controls have been imposed since Parkland, though the administration is pursuing a proposed regulatory ban on “bump stocks,” which enable a semi-automatic rifle to fire a steady stream of bullets. The devices were used in an October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 59 people but have not played a role in other major U.S. mass shootings.

(Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder and Liz Hampton in Houston, Gina Cherelus and Peter Szekely in New York and Mark Hosenball and Ian Simpson in Washington; Writing by Daniel Wallis and Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Susan Thomas)

 

At least eight dead, explosives found in Texas school shooting: sheriff

First responders following a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, May 18, 2018. Courtesy Harris County Sheriff's Office/via REUTERS

By Erwin Seba

SANTA FE, Texas (Reuters) – At least eight people died in a shooting at a Santa Fe, Texas, high school on Friday and police searching the building said they had taken into custody a student suspected of the attack and found explosives in the school building.

The sound of gunshots tore through the air at Santa Fe High School shortly before 8 a.m. CT (1300 GMT) on Friday, witnesses told local media, and live TV images showed lines of students evacuating the building while heavily armed police responded to the scene.

The incident was the latest in a long series of deadly shootings at U.S. schools. Seventeen teens and educators were shot dead at a Parkland, Florida, high school in February, a massacre that stirred the nation’s long-running debate over gun ownership.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said that eight to 10 people, both students and adults, died in the incident at the school about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Houston.

“There is one person, a suspect, in custody and a second possible person of interest that is detained and being questioned,” Gonzalez said at a news conference.

Explosive devices had also been found at the school and off campus, Gonzalez tweeted. “Law enforcement is in the process of rendering them safe. School has been evacuated.”

The suspect is a 17-year-old male, a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation, told Reuters.

At least nine people were taken to area hospitals for treatment, hospital officials said. The conditions of those people was not immediately clear. Gonzalez said a police officer was also being treated for injuries.

Sophomore Leila Butler told the local ABC affiliate that fire alarms went off at about 7:45 a.m. local time (1245 GMT) and students left their classrooms. She said some students believe they heard shots fired, and that she was sheltering with other students and teachers near campus.

‘WE ALL TOOK OFF’

A male student, who did not identify himself, described fleeing the scene in an interview with CBS affiliate KHOU.

“Three shots that I heard, so we all took off in the back and I tried to get into the trees, I didn’t want to be in sight. I heard four more shots, and then we jumped the fence to somebody’s house,” the student said.

Another sophomore, Dakota Shrader, told Fox 26 TV her 17-year-old girlfriend told her by phone that she was wounded but was recovering in a hospital. “My friend got injured,” said an emotional Shrader. “Her leg, she got shot in the leg.”

Dr. David Marshall, chief nursing officer at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said that the hospital was treating at least three patients – two adults and one person under 18. He said it was not immediately clear if that child was a student.

U.S. President Donald Trump called the latest school massacre heartbreaking.

“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others,” Trump said at the White House.

Days after the Parkland shooting, Trump said that elected officials should be ready to “fight” the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group. Early this month he embraced that group, telling its annual meeting in Dallas “your Second Amendment rights are under siege.”

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms.

No major federal gun controls have been imposed since Parkland, though the administration is pursuing a proposed regulatory ban on “bump stocks,” which enable a semi-automatic rifle to fire a steady stream of bullets. The devices were used in an October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 59 people but have not played a role in other major U.S. mass shootings.

(Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder and Liz Hampton in Houston, Gina Cherelus and Peter Szekely in New York and Mark Hosenball and Ian Simpson in Washington; Writing by Daniel Wallis and Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Susan Thomas)