A Californian teacher who talked a teenage gunman into handing over his loaded shotgun was praised by police as a hero, and credited with saving the lives of his class.
Ryan Heber, a science teacher at the Union High School in Taft, where one student was left in a critical condition following America’s latest school shooting on Thursday, confronted the 16-year-old gunman seconds after he had shot his first victim.
“I don’t want to shoot you,” the gunman reportedly told Mr Heber, who had been grazed by a pellet but was still able to coax the teenager into giving up his weapon with the help of with a campus supervisor who had rushed to the classroom after hearing three shotgun blasts.
“This teacher and this counsellor stood there face-to-face not knowing if he was going to shoot them,” the local sheriff, Donny Youngblood, told a press conference Friday. “They probably expected the worst and hoped for the best, but they gave the students a chance to escape. The heroics of these two people goes without saying. They could have just as easily have left students, and they didn’t. They knew not to let him leave the classroom with that shotgun.”
The officials said one female student was taken to hospital with possible hearing damage after the shotgun was fired close to her ear, while another girl suffered minor injuries in the scramble to flee.
Police said that the young gunman, who has not been named because he is a minor, had planned the event as a revenge attack against two other students who had bullied him. His pockets were found to be stuffed with more than 30 shotgun cartridges.
The 9am attack at the school 120 miles north-west of Los Angeles has once again raised questions about school safety, coming just a month after 20 primary school children and six female teachers were killed in a gun rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
Joe Biden, the US vice-president, is due to deliver a report to President Barack Obama on Tuesday that is expected to urge tougher gun controls, including a ban on assault weapons.
There remain doubts whether new gun laws banning assault rifles will pass Congress. The National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby that opposes any new controls, met Mr Biden on Thursday, but said it was only “checking a box” and remained confident that Congress would not act on gun laws. The NRA has proposed posting armed guards at every US school.