LOS ANGELES — A gun in a 10th-grader’s backpack accidentally discharged when he dropped the bag, wounding two students at a high school today, Los Angeles police and school authorities said.
A 15-year-old girl was in critical condition with a head wound and a 15-year-old boy suffered a neck wound, said Deputy Chief Patrick Gannon. Both were hit with the same bullet.
The student who brought the gun apologized before running to a classroom, Gannon said.
“He said, ‘I’m sorry,’ when the gun went off. It made it appear to the teacher that it was an accident,” Gannon said.
Gardena High School Principal Rudy Mendoza said the student dropped the bag as he walked between classes at midmorning.
Officers took the youth into custody and transported him to a police station while the school remained locked down.
Nelda Robledo, one of the worried parents who gathered near the school, said her 16-year-old daughter texted her that after the shooting students were ordered to get down on the ground or hide in a corner.
Police initially reported that three people were shot and the shooter was at large.
Numerous law enforcement agencies responded to the 2,400-student campus located in the city of Los Angeles adjacent to the city of Gardena.
Gardena police Lt. Steve Prendergast said a teacher called 911 at 10:41 a.m. and Gardena officers initially responded. The investigation was turned over to Los Angeles city and Los Angeles Unified School District police.
As at many district schools, Gardena High School checks incoming students with security wands at the entrance. It’s unclear how the student got in with the gun in his backpack, said district spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry.
“We’re trying to find out if the wanding is random or if every student is wanded,” she said.
Pollard-Terry said each school decides whether it needs to check students with a wand. No district school is equipped with walkthrough metal detectors, she said.
Frantic parents rushed to the school after hearing about the shooting on the news. They paced nervously as they waited behind police tapes for word from their children.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this before,” said Thomas Hill, whose 16-year-old and 18-year-old children attend the school. “You’re going to have confrontations between kids but never this.”
A mother who was waiting to hear from her 14-year-old son, Michael, said the school has a reputation for gang violence. Lupe Contreras said she has been trying to get her son out of the school.
Cynthia Cano, 15, said she was in a Mexican-American social studies class when an announcement was made that the school was in lockdown.
“We heard someone got shot. Everyone was freaking out a little,” she said in a telephone interview from inside the campus.