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Huddled in locker room after California school shooting, basketball team relied on texts

  • Video by Newsy

  • SARAH REINGEWIRTZ/THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA AP
                                Students reunite with their families at Central Park following a shooting that injured several people at Saugus High School today in Santa Clarita, Calif.

    SARAH REINGEWIRTZ/THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA AP

    Students reunite with their families at Central Park following a shooting that injured several people at Saugus High School today in Santa Clarita, Calif.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Flowers are placed in front of Saugus High School in the aftermath of a shooting today in Santa Clarita, Calif.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Flowers are placed in front of Saugus High School in the aftermath of a shooting today in Santa Clarita, Calif.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Students were escorted out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting, today, in Santa Clarita, Calif.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Students were escorted out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting, today, in Santa Clarita, Calif.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Students were comforted as they waited to be reunited with their parents following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, today, in Santa Clarita, Calif.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Students were comforted as they waited to be reunited with their parents following a shooting at Saugus High School that injured several people, today, in Santa Clarita, Calif.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                People waited for students and updates outside of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting, today, in Santa Clarita, Calif.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    People waited for students and updates outside of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting, today, in Santa Clarita, Calif.

  • KTTV-TV via ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                People were led out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting, today, in Santa Clarita, Calif. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter that deputies are responding to the high school about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

    KTTV-TV via ASSOCIATED PRESS

    People were led out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting, today, in Santa Clarita, Calif. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter that deputies are responding to the high school about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

SANTA CLARITA, CALIF. >> When gunfire rang out this morning at his high school, basketball player Noah Sanchez was working on his outside shot in the gym before class, listening to pop music playing in his headphones.

He didn’t hear the shots in the nearby quad, but word traveled fast, triggering a cascade of events that have become all too common during a school shooting.

Someone told the coach, who told someone to lock the doors and soon the boys’ junior varsity basketball team was huddled in fear in a dark corner of the smelly locker room at Saugus High School, hoping for word that everything was OK but worried a gunman might burst through the doors.

>> PHOTO GALLERY: 2 students killed in Saugus High School shooting

Outside, it was not OK. A 16-year-old student had pulled a handgun from his backpack and shot five students before shooting himself in the head, authorities said. Two students died, and the suspect was gravely wounded.

Sanchez and his teammates didn’t know what happened, but they soon got text messages with a mix of fact and fiction.

“It was scary because it was like we didn’t know what was going on at that point,” the 15-year-old said. “One teammate got a text from his sister that said there was an active shooter on campus and we need to get somewhere safe.”

They texted their families to say they were safe. They texted friends to find out if they were all right. They texted others to stay away if they hadn’t arrived at school yet.

Sanchez warned a girl he was friends with not to come to school. She got the message just as she was about to get out of her car and walk into the area where the shooting happened. She thanked him, but said she was crying because she was worried about him.

Sanchez’s older brother, Andres, also had received word of the shooting as he was headed for school. His father, Marcio Sanchez, an Associated Press photographer, had worked late Wednesday night at the Los Angeles Lakers-Golden State Warriors basketball game and was running behind schedule when his oldest son’s phone started blowing up.

“He said, ‘Hold on, I’m getting texts,’” Marcio Sanchez said. “‘There’s a shooter on campus, I don’t think we should go.’”

Had they been on time that morning, his son would have probably been walking into the campus quad around the time of the shooting, he said.

On campus, the sound of gunshots produced a wave of panic. Students ran from the school. Others bolted into nearby classrooms. Doors were locked. Teenagers huddled into safer places. Lights were turned off. They tried to stay quiet but texted madly.

A terrified Isabella Perez cryptically told her mother that she thought there was “someone on campus.”

Her mother, Elisabeth Perez, told her to go to a classroom. Isabella was already in a class and told her mother she loved her.

“I love you, too,” her mother wrote, along with three hearts.

“I’m so scared I can hear the police,” Isabella texted. “I love you. I just gonna keep saying it.”

Police with guns drawn swarmed the campus in this Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita. Sirens wailed and helicopters hovered overhead.

In the locker room, misinformation began to reach the basketball squad.

Other team members were hearing in group chats that several people had died, that students had been trampled in the chaos and the suspect had run away.

“We were just getting more and more news on the story, some false,” Noah said. “I believed it because it was happening in the moment.”

Another player who hadn’t been in the gym texted to say he had seen the shooting from the cafeteria and ran to safety.

Noah Sanchez’s father, meanwhile, had taken his oldest son home and returned with his cameras to capture the scene outside the school while waiting for his youngest son.

He knew there was a massive police response and was confident his son was in a safe place with teammates and coaches.

Noah Sanchez said the locker room smelled foul, but time passed quickly as he and teammates sat together, illuminated by the glow of their phones.

“We were really, like, nervous,” he said.

Eventually sheriff’s deputies arrived and escorted the boys back into the gym before releasing them to meet their parents.

Marcio Sanchez was calmly taking photos of parents overcome with emotion at seeing their children emerge safely from the scene of violence.

He put his camera down and dissolved into tears as his son approached.

“I lost it when I saw him,” Sanchez said.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

A student gunman opened fire today at a Southern California high school, killing two students, wounding three others and shooting himself in the head, authorities said. He was in grave condition.

The shooting occurred around 7:30 a.m. at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Shauna Orandi, 16, said she was in her Spanish class doing homework when she heard four gunshots that she initially mistook as instruments from a band class. She said a student burst into the room saying he’d seen the gunman, and her classmates were stunned into silence.

“My worst nightmare actually came true,” she said later as she left a nearby park with her father. “This is it. I’m gonna die.”

Freshman Rosie Rodriguez said she was walking up the library stairs when she heard noises that “sounded like balloons” popping. She realized they were gunshots when she saw other students running.

Still carrying a backpack laden with books, she ran across the street to a home, where a person she didn’t know gave shelter to her and about 10 other students.

“I just heard a lot of kids crying. We were scared,” Rodriguez said.

On a normal day, she said, Saugus High School felt very safe.

“We never really thought this would happen in our school,” she said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said six people were shot, including the 16-year-old student suspect.

No details were released on a motive and his name was not released. Today was his birthday.

A video of the shooting showed the gunman shooting himself in the head. Authorities say he was carrying a .45 caliber handgun and used the last bullet on himself.

The two students who died were a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old male. Their names were not released.

Saugus High School and other schools in the area were locked down.

Television images showed deputies swarming the school and several people being moved on gurneys. Lines of students were escorted from the school by armed deputies.

Anxious parents were awaiting reunification with their children in a park near the high school.

Los Angeles County Undersheriff Tim Murakami has tweeted an apology to the parents, saying investigators needed to interview the students before they could be released.

Orandi said she has heard about so many school shootings that she always assumed she’d panic in such a moment.

But she said she stayed calm, thanks to the help of her teacher who locked down the classroom.

The shots rang out — “bang! pop!” — and Orandi said she heard people yelling and running. Students in the classroom started crying and hugging one another.

“I just couldn’t believe it was happening,” Orandi said.

She was escorted from the classroom to the school gym and later picked up by her father Hamid Orandi.

“She burst out crying like crazy, but I felt better because I knew the danger was gone,” he said. “It’s one of those random things you always have to worry about.”

His daughter said she would probably go home and vomit from the stress.

Student Sharon Orelana Cordova told KNBC-TV she hid under a table in a nurse’s office until officers came to get her.

“When I got out, I saw this person lying on the ground … with blood all over,” she said.

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