California school shooting suspect described as quiet, smart

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (AP) — People who knew the 16-year-old boy suspected of killing two students in a burst of gunfire at a high school outside Los Angeles described him as a quiet, smart kid who they’d never expect would violently snap.

One fellow junior at Saugus High School said he was a Boy Scout who she relied on to study for advanced placement European history. A next-door neighbor who knew the boy as they grew up said he kept to himself but was never threatening.

The boy was taken to a hospital Thursday morning after shooting five other students and then himself in the head, according to authorities, who have not publicly identified him. It was his 16th birthday.

The Associated Press determined the gunman’s identity based on property records for his home, which police said was searched after the shootings, and interviews with three friends.

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Two dead after a student opens fire at Saugus High School in California
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Two dead after a student opens fire at Saugus High School in California
Students are comforted as they wait to be reunited with their parents following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ambulances are parked outside of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Santa Clarita, Calif. A few people were injured Thursday during a shooting at the high school, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and a search was underway for the gunman, authorities said. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A police officer stands guard as students wait to reunite with their parents following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Students and others wait outside a reunification center in Santa Clarita, Calif., after a shooting at Saugus High School injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)
Law enforcement personnel gather outside Saugus High School following a shooting in Santa Clarita, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)
People are lead out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Santa Clarita, Calif. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says on Twitter that deputies are responding to the high school about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The sheriff’s office says a male suspect in black clothing was seen at the school. (KTTV-TV via AP)
People wait for students and updates outside of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
People are lead out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Santa Clarita, Calif. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says on Twitter that deputies are responding to the high school about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The sheriff’s office says a male suspect in black clothing was seen at the school. (KTTV-TV via AP)
In this photo from video provided by KTLA-TV paramedics transport an injured person after a shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., early Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (KTLA-TV via AP)
CALIFORNIA shaded relief map, highlighted with SACRAMENTO (capital) and SANTA CLARITA locator and SCHOOL SHOOTING lettering, finished graphic
Students are escorted out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
D.J. Hamburger, center in blue, a teacher at Saugus High School, comforts a student after reports of a shooting at the school on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department stands outside of Saugus High School with his weapon drawn after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
People wait outside of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva tweeted that the suspect was in custody and was being treated at a hospital. He said the suspect was a student but gave no further information.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Students are escorted out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Students are escorted out of Saugus High School as some parents join them after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Students are comforted as they wait to be reunited with their parents following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Students are embraced as they reunite at a park following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Students are escorted in a single file line as some parents pick them up outside of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A student is comforted as she reunite at a park following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ella Cabigting is embraced by her father Emerson as they reunite following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A police officer stands guard as students wait to be reunited with their parents following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ella Cabigting is embraced by her father Emerson as they reunite following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Students are embraced as they reunite at a park following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Students are escorted in a line as they wait to be reunited with their parents following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Students are comforted as they wait to be reunited with their parents following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A student is embraced as she reunite at a park following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, at podium, and other police, fire and school officials hold a news conference about s shooting at that killed one and wounded several at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)
Students wait to be reunited with their parents at a park following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A student is kissed as he reunited at a park following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Law enforcement officials arrive on the scene after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Students evacuate their campus after reports of a shooting at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Santa Clarita, Calif. The shooting occurred around 7:30 a.m. at the high school, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo by Christian Monterrosa)
Parents wait to reunite with their children after a shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Students evacuate their campus after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
First responders standby for any injured students after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo by Christian Monterrosa)
Heavily armed FBI officials survey the scene after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Students evacuate their campus after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Students evacuate their campus after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo by Christian Monterrosa)
Students evacuate their campus after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo by Christian Monterrosa)
Students evacuate their campus after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
First responders standby for any injured students after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Students evacuate their campus after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo by Christian Monterrosa)
Students evacuate their campus after a gunman opened fire at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A student is escorted out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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The boy lived with his mother in Santa Clarita, a Los Angeles suburb of about 210,000 known for good schools, safe streets and relatively affordable housing.

“A quiet, to-himself kid,” said Ryan McCracken, a next-door neighbor who though several years older would play with the boy growing up, including in a backyard tree house. “You wouldn’t expect anything like that from him.”

Brooke Risley, a junior at Saugus High, said she had known the boy since elementary school and saw him Wednesday in engineering class. They were paired on engineering projects during the last school year and he came to her house to work on them.

On Thursday, she couldn’t recall anything indicating he might be violent. The closest she could get was a keychain he had with a hollow bullet.

Risley described the boy as somewhat introverted, though open with his close friends, and “naturally smart.” She said he wasn’t bullied, had a girlfriend and had been an active member of a local Boy Scout troop.

Results posted online from school track meets last spring show he was an unexceptional middle- and long-distance runner. His GPA landed him on the honor roll during fall of eight grade, according to online school records, though he did not appear on the published honor roll last year.

Joe Fitzpatrick, a senior who helped the teacher in the boy’s physics class, called him a “good, quiet kid” who didn’t miss assignments and did well on tests.

“He just seemed like one of those regular kids,” Fitzpatrick said.

The boy’s father died two years ago when he was a freshman, according to an online obituary that said he worked for a health care company for 33 years as a field service engineer and “loved big game hunting and fishing of all kinds.”

According to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department records published in a local newspaper, his father was arrested in June 2015 on suspicion of attempted battery on his wife.

Authorities were questioning her Thursday, searching for an explanation like so many others.

“We’re all wondering,” said Risley, “what was the motive?”

___

Pritchard reported from Los Angeles. AP reporter Stefanie Dazio in Santa Clarita contributed.

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