Taft School Shooting: Teacher Helped Pacify Gunman; Armed Guard Was Out Today
There was a shooting incident at a high school in Taft, Calif., this morning. Now that many reports have come in from the scene, it appears that two people were injured and a shooter has been taken into custody.
It happened at Taft Union High School, as NBC4 reports. The local KGET-TV writes that "Kern County Fire officials say one victim received only minor injuries and refused treatment at the scene, the other person was airlifted to Kern Medical Center."
The airlifted victim is in "critical but stable condition," KGET reports. As more details emerged this afternoon, we've updated this post.
At a news briefing Thursday afternoon, Kern County Sheriff Don Youngblood said that a science teacher helped convince the gunman, identified as a 16-year-old student at the school, that he should put his weapon on the ground. The teacher was joined by a campus supervisor in talking to the gunman.
"The heroics of these two people, it goes without saying, to stand there and face someone that has a shotgun, who's already discharged it and shot a student," Youngblood said. "It speaks volumes for these two young men, and what they may have prevented."
By that time, the gunman had also shot at another student, but did not hit him. The gunman was reportedly a student of the class, which had about 28 students in it when he arrived, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun and multiple rounds.
"He told the teacher, 'I don't want to shoot you,' and named the other person he wanted to shoot," the sheriff said. "He had intended targets, there's no question."
Youngblood said that as the teacher spoke to the gunman, other students were leaving his classroom by another door. He added that the school normally has an armed police officer present, but the officer was snowed in Thursday.
The teacher suffered a slight wound from a shotgun pellet; he refused treatment for the injury. One student went to the hospital for treatment after the gun was fired closed to her ear.
Just after 1:30 p.m. ET, KABC-TV was reporting that the Kern County Sheriff's Department says officers "are going room by room to secure the school. There were reportedly people still hiding in closets at the school."
The news broke right as Vice President Biden was giving an update on the work his task force on gun violence is doing. He was tasked with developing "concrete proposals" on reducing gun violence after the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Taft is about 120 miles north of Los Angeles.
We'll watch for more on this story. Keep in mind: When news like this happens, there are often conflicting accounts in the early stages of reporting. We're focusing on information from those in authority and news outlets at the scene.
Update at 5:45 p.m. ET. Teacher Identified:
The Bakersfield Californian is reporting that the heroic science teacher has been identified as Ryan Heber. The paper spoke to Heber's father:
"'His students like him a whole bunch,' said Heber, 70. 'He's not the kind of teacher a student would try to hurt. He's definitely someone who could talk a kid down in an emergency.'"
"After the incident, Ryan Heber sent a telephone text message to his mother, who is out of town this week, letting her know there had been a shooting at school but that he was OK."
"'It's always smart to text your mother if there's a crisis,' the elder Heber said."
He added that his son's wife also works at Taft Union.
Update at 4:45 p.m. ET. Teacher Talked Student Down:
A teacher who had just seen a teen shoot one his students is being credited for helping to avoid a worse situation, as he and a campus supervisor talked the gunman, who was holding a shotgun, into putting the weapon down before police arrived.
Update at 2:15 p.m. ET. Student And Teacher Injured:
It's now thought that one student was shot and injured, KGET-TV now reports, and a teacher was hurt. The station says it has been told by the Kern County sheriff that the weapon was a shotgun, the gunman is believed to have been a student and that the incident happened in a classroom.
The injured student's injuries are not thought to be life-threatening, the sheriff has also told the station. The teacher is apparently the person who declined treatment.