Texas school gunman 'confused,' his lawyers say

PHOTO: AFP

The gunman accused of killing 10 people and wounding 13 at a Texas high school last week was in a state of mental confusion, his attorneys said Monday, as schools beefed up security for students returning to classrooms.

At least two of those wounded in Friday's mass shooting at Santa Fe High School were still hospitalised, including school police officer John Barnes, who remained in critical condition, said the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a student at the school, faces charges of capital murder and aggravated assault of a public servant. He is alleged to have used his father's legally owned shotgun and revolver in the rampage.

Pagourtzis's attorneys told reporters Monday that their client was "in a state," while the sheriff in the southeast Texas county of Galveston said the 17-year-old was being held "under suicide watch."

"I think that there is definitely something going on in terms of mental health history," attorney Nicholas Poehl told NBC News.

"I still think he's very confused about the incident."

Law enforcement offered a new timeline of the rampage, saying that two school police officers challenged the gunman four minutes after the attack began.

A gun battle ensued, with the gunman in a classroom and officers in the hallway, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset told a news conference.

"They contained him in that one area, isolated," he said, "so that he did no more damage to other classes."

Recalling the attack on ABC television's "Good Morning America," student Trenton Beazely said the shooter "was playing music, making jokes, had slogans and rhymes he kept saying."

"Every time he'd kill someone he'd say, 'another one bites the dust.'"

Tightened security

Several Texas school administrators announced new safety measures as nervous parents sent children back to school.

"We will be increasing police visibility at each school through the remainder of the school year," Greg Smith, the superintendent of schools at Clear Creek, said in a letter.

Another school banned backpacks to prevent hidden weapons from slipping through, while others changed dress codes to forbid heavy clothing such as the trench coat Pagourtzis was said to be wearing to conceal his weapons.

Santa Fe school officials said students would return to classrooms one week from Tuesday.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, officially announced a series of town hall meetings to discuss schools safety. They will be held at the state capital starting Tuesday.

Texas, a conservative stronghold, has some of the most permissive firearm laws in the United States, and new gun restrictions are unlikely.

Abbott has focused on mental health issues and arming school personnel.

The Democratic mayor of Houston, while advocating for metal detectors at all schools, on Monday called for tougher gun laws, as well.

"There's nothing wrong with reasonable, pragmatic (gun) restrictions," Sylvester Turner said at a news conference.

10 killed in Texas high school shooting

  • 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.
  • "A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn't like," she said. "Shana being the first one."
  • He wore a black trench coat to school in the Texas heat on Friday and opened fire with a pistol and shotgun.
  • 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 US 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.

New threats

Already frayed nerves were rattled by several new gun threats Monday.

At one school, a student brought an unloaded gun to campus, while at another a student brought a gun apparently to harm himself, local media reported.

At yet another school, a student reportedly texted someone else asking them to bring a gun to campus.

All three students were arrested.

A statewide moment of silence also was held in the morning to remember the eight students and two teachers killed.

Mourners gathered at white wooden crosses planted in front of Santa Fe High School, with a victim's name and a red heart on each cross.

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