Slaughtered at their desks: Two teachers and exchange student among ten murdered in Texas high school art class after boy, 17, opened fire with dad's
Slaughtered at their desks: Two teachers and exchange student among ten murdered in Texas high school art class after boy, 17, opened fire with dad’s guns while wearing a ‘Born to Kill’ T-shirt.
A beloved mother-of-four art teacher and an exchange student who had moved from Pakistan for a better education are among the 10 people killed when a crazed gunman stormed a Texas school on Friday.
Substitute teacher Ann Perkins, 64, art teacher Cynthia Tisdale and students Sabika Sheikh, Chris Stone, Kim Vaughan, Angelique Ramirez, Aaron Kyle McLeod, Christian Garcia and Shana Fisher have been confirmed dead.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old high school junior, allegedly burst into an art classroom at his school yelling ‘Surprise!’ while brandishing his father’s shotgun and pistol, before opening fire and gunning down students and teachers.
According to the charging document reported by local media, Pagourtzis picked his victims, choosing not to shoot students he liked so he could have his story told.
Perkins’ daughter Ashley pleaded for information about her mother’s whereabouts on Friday before the tragic news of her death was confirmed. She was a grandmother and was described by one of her students as ‘wonderful’ and ‘amazing’.
A gymnastics club which her daughter once attended paid tribute to Perkins, writing: ‘It is with an extremely heavy heart that we are asking you to please keep TNT Alumni, Ashley, and her dad, Steve, in your prayers.
‘Ashley’s mom, Ms. Ann, has passed away as a result of today’s tragic events. She was an amazing mom and an adored substitute who was loved by all.’
A friend wrote on Twitter: ‘Ann Perkins was a beloved teacher, family friend, & woman. She enjoyed spending time with her children, grandchildren, & students.
‘She lived an impeccable life filled with traveling, love, family, & a bit of champagne. Rest easy our beautiful nurturing angel. I love you.’
She was affectionately referred to as ‘Grandma Perkins’.
A student named Carsen wrote: ‘RIP to the wonderful and lovely Mrs. Ann Perkins. I love you so much and you were by far one of my favorite teachers. Fly high angel. You are and will always be amazing.’
Art teacher Cynthia Tisdale was shot dead, her brother-in-law confirmed on Facebook.
‘Cynthia Tisdale went to work today at the Santa Fe High School as she had done many times before,’ he wrote. ‘She was teaching the art class today and a little after 8 AM a demon-possessed Son of Belial enters the room and starts shooting… killing 8 students and 2 teachers… one being my sister-in-law Cynthia, who was a member of Anchor Bible Baptist Church in Pharr, TX.
‘Her husband Reverend William Recie Tisdale is in bad health with a terminal lung disease. They have 4 children Recie Jr, Joseph, Autumn and Shannon. Your prayers are appreciated and requested for all of the family.’
Her niece, Leia Olinde says Tisdale, who was in her 60s, was like a mother to her and helped her shop for wedding dresses last year.
Olinde says Tisdale was married to her husband for close to 40 years and had eight grandchildren. She says she ‘never met a woman who loved her family so much.’
Olinde’s fiance, Eric Sanders, said: ‘Words don’t explain her lust for life and the joy she got from helping people.’
Santa Fe student Chris Stone, 17, was almost among the dead. His family had spent the day desperately searching for him. He was a junior at the high school and was in art class at the time of the shooting.
Relatives told ABC News students Aaron Kyle McLeod had also died in the shooting.
Exchange student Sabika Sheikh was part of the YES Pakistan program, and her death was confirmed by the Pakistani Embassy in Washington D.C.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with Sabika’s family and friends,’ Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said in a statement, CBS News reports.
YES program manager Megan Lysaght wrote in an email to YES Pakistan students: ‘Please know that the YES program is devastated by this loss and we will remember Sabika and her families in our thoughts and prayers.’
Kim Vaughan was confirmed dead by her mother’s friend, Jennifer Morey Ryden. Ryden, who had been with Vaughan’s mother awaiting news, wrote on Facebook: ‘She has been found. She is now in heaven.’
Relatives confirmed to KHOU that Angelique Ramirez was also murdered in the shooting. And Shana Fisher’s aunt announced her niece’s death and thanked people for their prayers.
A woman who said she was Christian Garcia’s cousin, revealed the 15-year-old had been shot dead.
‘Today I learned about the shooting and come to find out my lil cousin was there. RIP BABY BOY I LOVE YOU! #SantaFeHighSchool,’ AJ wrote.
Rome Shubert, a University of Houston baseball commitment and a sophomore pitcher for Santa Fe High School, was shot in the back of the head, but survived and was well enough to tweet about the tragedy Friday afternoon.
‘I’m so greatful and blessed that god spared me life today,’ he wrote. ‘Today I was shot in the back of the head but i am completely okay and stable.’
He told the Houston Chronicle was in his classroom when gunshots rang out.
‘I was sitting doing my work and he walked in, tossed something on the desks behind me,’ Shubert, who has returned from hospital, added. ‘Then three loud pops and I jumped under my table and flipped it in front of me and I guess he ran out in the hall and I took off out the back door and when I was running I realized I was shot in the back of my head.’
The teen said he didn’t realize he had been shot at first because he was so scared and had so much adrenaline. The bullet ‘missed everything vital’.
In a follow-up tweet, Shubert wrote: ‘Thank you for all your prayers and the support. Prayers going out to all the others who are affected.’
John Barnes, 49, a retired Houston police officer now working as the Santa Fe resource officer and was first to confront the gunman, was shot in the elbow and was hospitalized in critical condition.
He was inside the school when gunfire erupted and he quickly jumped into action. He was dragged to safety by Santa Fe police chief Art Acevedo.
Dr. David Marshall, chief nursing officer at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said Friday afternoon Barnes is in stable condition.
Marshall said a bullet hit Barnes’ arm, damaging the bone and a major blood vessel around his elbow. He said the blood vessel has been repaired, and that Barnes is expected to emerge from surgery within a few hours.
Hospital staff said Barnes lost a lot of blood and had to be resuscitated before going into surgery.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted that Barnes, who is married, was sworn in as an officer in 1995 and retired from the force this past January.
‘Just left @utmbhealth Galveston. On behalf of @SantaFeISD Police Officer John Barnes family, thank you for your prayers. John is hanging in there & the family is very hopeful. They hope to have additional information released shortly,’ Acevedo wrote on Twitter.
Barnes retired from the Houston Police Department just four months ago. He started working as a resource officer with Santa Fe Independent School District one day after leaving the Houston department.
According to Click 2 Houston, Barnes started as a jailer with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office in 1991. The following year he was appointed a peace officer with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.
He left in August 1993 and was sworn in with the Houston Police Department in November 1994. Barnes began his career at the Southwest Patrol before he moved into investigations in 2005.
Pagourtzis was clad in a ‘Born to Kill’ T-shirt when he embarked on his rampage during first period at Santa Fe High School in Texas, police say.
Freshman Peter Matuza told ABC News he heard two explosions and then saw the gunman enter the classroom and shoot his friend.
He said he and the gunman made eye contact.
‘He had a face of rage,’ Matuza said. ‘He could have killed me right there.’
He subsequently surrendered when confronted by police, who say he backed out of his original plan to commit suicide at the end of the massacre, but not before planting explosives around the school.
Police subsequently released a mugshot of dead-eyed Pagourtzis who is being held without bond in the Galveston County jail on charges of capital murder and aggravated assault of a peace officer.
As well as being accused of killing 10, he also injured 10 more.
A judge denied bond for Pagourtzis when he made his initial court appearance Friday evening via closed circuit video from the jail. The judge also took Pagourtzis’ application for a court-appointed attorney.
Pagourtzis has been charged with capital murder in the Friday morning shooting. He did not enter a plea at the hearing.
Pagourtzis shuffled before a judge in Galveston, Texas on Friday, to hear his rights and the charges against him.
‘Yes sir,’ he replied softly two times in a row to confirm that he is a US citizen and would be requesting a court appointed attorney.
Asked if he was out on bond on any other charges, Pagourtzis, who has no known criminal record, quietly replied ‘No sir’ to the judge.
The accused killer hung his head during the appearance and was clad in a drab green prison outfit, handcuffed and surrounded by deputies. If convicted he would face the death penalty.
At dusk, hundreds of people, including many children, turned out for a candlelight vigil as the community sought to cope with the tragedy.
People prayed and sang ‘Amazing Grace’, tears streaming down some faces. There were hugs, and dogs providing emotional support.
Police are now trying to piece together what motive ‘quiet’ Pagourtzis had for allegedly carrying out the shooting.
On his now-deleted Facebook page, Pagourtzis shared a photo of a black T-shirt with the words ‘Born to Kill’ printed across the front on April 30.
Other photos shared on Pagourtzis’s page the same day in April depicted a dark-colored trenchcoat festooned with various insignia, including the Nazi Iron Cross, which the teen wrote stood for ‘bravery.’
Additional patches on the garb included the rising sun, a Communist hammer and sickle pin and a depiction of the idol Baphomet, which Pagourtzis said symbolized ‘Evil.’
A week prior, a photo showing a handgun and a knife appeared on an Instagram account associated with Pagourtzis. The page has since been taken down.
Students at Santa Fe High told NBC News that Pagourtzis wore a trenchcoat to school every day.
Dustin Severin, 17, told KPRC-TV he saw Pagourtzis in the hallway before the shooting wearing his ‘usual outfit.’
Severin says the teen has been picked on by football coaches ‘for smelling bad’,’ and he described Pagourtzis as someone who keeps to himself.
Tristen Patterson, 16, who introduced himself as a friend of Pagourtzis’, said he is interested in guns and war simulation video games, but that he has never about talked about killing people.
He also claimed that the high school junior did not show signs of bullying, but would sometimes enter the classroom ‘acting a little bit down or sad. A little bit sluggish.’
Pagourtzis plays on the Santa Fe High School junior varsity football team, and is a member of a dance squad with a local Greek Orthodox church.
Father Stelios Sitaras of Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Galveston, Texas, said he met Pagourtzis when the young man danced with a group as part of an annual festival in October. He said the Pagourtzises are members of a nearby parish.
Sitaras said he had never heard of the teen being in any sort of trouble.
‘He is a quiet boy,’ the priest said. ‘You would never think he would do anything like this.’
Michael Farina, 17, said he grew up with Pagourtzis and would play video games with him. He said Pagourtzis knew a lot about guns and remembered him asking which one he should get when he was older.
‘I’m kind of dumbfounded. We didn’t get any warning,’ Farina said.
He said a black trench coat and black boots was Pagourtzis’s regular outfit to school. ‘I guess you could say it was his kind of style,’ Farina said. He said he wasn’t someone who got into trouble and described him as a ‘run of the mill’ student.
At a press conference this afternoon, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the suspect used his father’s legally owned shotgun and .38-revolver, but it’s not clear whether the father knew his son had taken them.
Governor Abbot said cops had recovered ‘various kinds of explosives,’ including a ‘CO2 device’ and a Molotov cocktail in a home and a vehicle. He added there is ‘potential for explosive devices in other sites being investigated.’
Authorities were searching a trailer home associated with the family about three miles from the school on Friday afternoon.
The governor says the suspect said he originally intended to commit suicide, as he had written in journals found on his computer and cellphone, but gave himself up and told authorities that he didn’t have the courage to take his own life.
Officials also questioned two other students who were detained after the shooting. At least one was held because of ‘suspicious reactions’ to the shooting, Abbott said.
They have not been named or charged, and investigators subsequently indicated that Pagourtzis had confessed that he acted alone.
President Donald Trump addressed the latest school shooting in a tweet, which said in part: ‘Early reports not looking good. God bless all!’
First Lady Melania Trump, who is still recovering from a recent surgery, also tweeted, saying: ‘My heart goes out to Santa Fe and all of Texas today.’
Trump again weighed in on the massacre in Texas as he delivered remarks during the Prison Reform Summit at the White House, expressing his ‘sadness and heartbreak’ and saying that his administration is closely monitoring the situation.
‘This has been going on too long in our country – too many years, too many decades now,’ he went on to say. ‘We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack to the students, families, teachers and personnel at Santa Fe High.
‘We’re with you in this tragic hour and we will be with you forever. 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.
‘Everyone must work together at every level of government to keep our children safe. May God heal the injured, and may God comfort the wounded, and may God be with the victims and with the victims’ families. Very sad day. Very, very sad.’
He ordered that U.S. flags fly at half-staff as a mark of ‘solemn respect’ for those affected by the school shooting in Texas.
Flags are to be flown at half-staff until sunset on May 22. The order applies to the White House and all public buildings and grounds, military posts and naval stations and vessels, as well as at U.S. embassies, consular offices and other facilities abroad. The flag atop the White House was immediately lowered on Friday.
Netflix has canceled the premiere of its second season of the teen drama ’13 Reasons Why’ because of the shooting.
The streaming service announced the cancellation hours before the scheduled premiere and red carpet event, citing the Friday morning shooting at Santa Fe High School that left 10 people dead.
Despite the cancelled premiere, the entire Season 2 is available on Netflix.
The first season of ’13 Reasons Why’ drew criticism for its graphic depiction of a teenager’s suicide. The second season focuses on the aftermath of the girl’s death, and includes a storyline about a thwarted school shooting.