SANTA FE HIGH SCHOOL MURDERS
SANTA FE HIGH SCHOOL MURDERS
On May 18 2018, a seventeen year old student entered the Santa Fe High School in south Texas and opened fire with a shotgun and a .38 caliber revolver killing ten and wounding twelve others before being taken into custody by armed school resource officers stationed on the campus. The weapons were legally purchased by the killer’s father.
The killer waived his right to silence and spoke with police. He said he wanted to commit suicide after the murders, but didn’t have the courage to kill himself. He said he purposely left some of the students he liked alive so they could tell the story of what happened. Those he didn’t like were slaughtered.
The murderer was wearing a trench coat to hide the weapons. Supposedly he had been wearing the coat and heavy boots frequently in the last few weeks. We hate to Monday morning quarterback, but a student wearing a trench coat in mid May in south Texas could be seen as unusual behavior and further investigation might be warranted.
According to reports, the murderer did not show any significant disturbing activity prior to the incident and he had no criminal record. His social media accounts show several images of guns, a picture of a T-shirt with the phrase “Born to Kill” on the front, and a photograph of a long dark coat sporting Nazi symbols. It is not clear whether or not this is the coat he was wearing on May 18.
The shooting began about 7:30 am in the art complex. Classes were just getting started. The killer barricaded himself in the art complex until he surrendered, approximately thirty minutes after the cowardly attack began. He taunted his captives and at one point he found several students hiding in a closet. He opened fire on the defenseless children, killing two of them. Students at Santa Fe High School had received training in how to react in an active shooter situation. The training discussed both barricading the room to keep the shooter out and attempting to hide. It appears as though the killer may have used aspects of the training to plan his attack when he barricaded the door to keep police out and then began searching hiding places for students.
A student and a substitute teacher saw the killer shortly after the shooting began and they barricaded their classroom. The teacher pulled the fire alarm and students began to evacuate.
The attacker said no one else was involved and police say they have seen no evidence anyone else participated.
The killer’s father says he son was a victim of bullying at school but school officials deny these allegations. The mother of one of the victims said the murderer had been trying to have a relationship with her daughter for about four months. When the victim rejected his advances, the killer became more aggressive until finally she embarrassed him in front of other students about a week before the murders. Police have not addressed the motive except to say the killer “wanted his story told”. Investigators have his cell phone, computer, and some journals that belong to him. Perhaps more information concerning the motive will be gained once searches of these devices are complete.
Apparently the killer attempted to make some improvised explosive devices. Police found two carbon dioxide canisters, an unlit Molotov cocktail, and a pressure cooker containing nails and an alarm clock near the school. None of these devices were functional.
Of course gun control has been heavily debated but there has also been much discussion dealing with access control. There is no single answer to the problem of mass shootings in schools because it is a multi-dimensional issue, but access control is obviously of great importance in securing any facility.
If access control is enhanced at the school there are other considerations that should be taken into account. We will not bring up these issues on social media and risk the chance of giving some coward ideas.
Any school official or law enforcement officer who would like to review these concerns can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author, Jim Leach, formerly served as Director of Criminal Investigations for the Tennessee Highway Patrol. His first book, “You Can Tell ME, a simple guide to effective interviewing”, can be found at Amazon.com