At approximately 7:32am local time on Friday, May 18, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire on students at Santa Fe High School in Texas, killing 10 and injuring at least 13 others. Moments later, officers from Santa Fe Police Department, Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, and other agencies responded to reports of an active-shooter situation at the school. After entering an art complex at the high school, Pagourtzis opened fire inside one of the classrooms.
According to police reports, the school’s fire alarms were activated at 7:45am, prompting students to exit classrooms into the hallways. It was during this early stage of the attack that two school officers attempted to engage Pagourtzis, resulting in one of the officers being shot; the officer is currently in critical condition. Pagourtzis reportedly entered the building armed with a shotgun and a handgun, and was wearing a black trench coat with Nazi insignia. At 8:02am, Pagourtzis exited one of the classrooms and surrendered to police. According to reports, the 10 killed in Friday’s shooting consisted of eight students and two teachers.
Authorities subsequently found several improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including pipe bombs, pressure cookers, and a Molotov cocktail, both at the school and at off-campus locations nearby. The two IEDs located at the school were described as pressure cookers with an alarm clock and nails, and another composed of carbon dioxide canisters wrapped with duct tape; all were determined by law enforcement to be innocuous. Pagourtzis later confessed to the murders and he is currently being held without bond at the Galveston County jail. He faces 10 charges of capital murder and aggravated assault of a public servant. While a second, and possibly third individual were reportedly also under scrutiny in connection to the shooting event, Pagourtzis has claimed he alone was responsible.
Pagourtzis had reportedly posted threatening comments on Facebook in the lead up to Friday’s attack, as well as images of the “Born to Kill” T-shirt and of a black trench coat that had Nazi insignias, reportedly a Nazi Iron Cross represents bravery. However, investigators have not assigned a direct link to any suspected political affiliations to Friday’s event, and a motive remains unclear at this time. Pagourtzis’ plans to carry out the shooting, as well as other relevant materials, were also found on his computer and cellphones, revealing that he had initially planned to commit suicide at the scene. Pagourtzis reportedly has no record of any past criminal activity, nor any prior confrontations with law enforcement, and was a relatively active member of the Santa Fe community, having made the honor roll, and played defensive tackle on the school football team. According to other students and faculty, while Pagourtzis was regarded as a “quiet,” it appears there were no indications that he was planning such an attack. Authorities have since revealed that the two weapons used in the shooting belonged to Pagourtzis’ father; although it is unclear if the father was aware that Pagourtzis had possession of the weapons. Unlike in previous, similar shootings events carried out in recent years with high-powered automatic rifles, such as the AR-15, a shotgun and a .38 revolver handgun were used in this event.
Friday’s shooting was the worst school shooting to occur since the February 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL; in which a former student armed with an AR-15 rifle killed 17 people, resulting in a wave of student-led protests nationwide calling for tighter gun laws. In addition, Friday’s shooting is the 22nd school shooting to occur in the U.S. this year; averaging approximately one school shooting per week in 2018. School shootings are considered any incident where at least one person was shot, not including the shooter, and the shooting occurred on school grounds.
This latest event also comes on the heels of a newly released report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) analyzing active shooter incidents in the U.S. between 2016 and 2017. According to the data, the number of active shooter incidents, as well as resulting casualties, over the past two years have continually increased, totaling 50 incidents, with 20 in 2016 and increasing to 30 in 2017. The FBI’s own formal definition of an active shooter is of one “engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in populated areas with the use of firearms, and does not include gang- and drug-related shootings.” According to their report, 17 of the 50 incidents to have occurred during the aforementioned two-year period did so in commercial and/or business surroundings, with another seven at educational facilities.
Pagourtzis was known for wearing a long black trench coat to school, viewed as unusual attire in a part of Texas that is often hot and humid. Some experts have noted that perpetrators of mass shootings often study their predecessors, and that Pagourtzis appeared to copy some of the elements of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, including a black trench coat, a shotgun, and explosives. It is also notable that in recent years, there has been a notable increase in the number of shooter who also appear to engage in, or swear an allegiance to, white supremacist or nationalist theories or organizations; although no definitive correlation has been substantively delineated at this time.