TAFT, CA - A California high school student accused of opening fire on classmates with a 12-gauge shotgun has been charged with two counts of attempted murder, authorities said Monday.
Kern County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Pafford said the alleged shooter, 16-year-old Bryan Oliver, will be charged as an adult in a shooting that wounded two people, one seriously. The two gunshot victims, Jacob Nichols and Bowe Cleveland, are expected to recover.
Pafford, who is prosecuting the case, said three additional counts of assault with a firearm will be added.
An arraignment is scheduled for Monday afternoon, he said.
After Thursday's shooting in the small community of Taft, about 30 miles west of Bakersfield, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood told reports that the gunman was taken into custody after a teacher persuaded him to drop the weapon and surrender.
As the shooting unfolded, the teacher, identified as Ryan Heber, managed to evacuate his students out of a back door. But instead of running, Heber had a conversation with the student gunman, authorities said.
The teacher had suffered a pellet wound to the head from one of the shots, authorities said.
Campus counselor Kim Fields helped distract Oliver as students ran. Both employees were hailed as heroes. "They stayed and probably distracted him and probably allowed students to get out of the classroom," Youngblood said.
"He (the gunman) said, 'I wasn't aiming at you,' and said the name of the student he was aiming at," he said.
When Oliver was taken into custody, he had a shotgun and about 20 rounds of ammunition, Youngblood said.
"This is a tragedy, but not as bad as it might have been," he said.
Immediately after the shooting, authorities executed search warrants at Oliver's home, less than a block from the site of the shooting. A motive has not been revealed, but authorities are investigating a theory that bullying may have played a role.
A full-time armed police officer was assigned to the school, but authorities said heavy snow in the San Joaquin Mountains prevented the officer from leaving his home.
The most seriously wounded victim was airlifted to a hospital in Bakersfield and treated for gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, Pruitt said.
U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, whose district includes the town of Taft, expressed sympathy to his constituents. "I am deeply saddened and troubled by news of the shooting," the Republican lawmaker said.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose father graduated from Taft Union High School, expressed her sadness but said the incident was a call for gun legislation reform. "My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, and I wish them a speedy recovery. But how many more shootings must there be in America before we come to the realization that guns and grievances do not belong together?"