SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 26
5 Shot at Granite Hills High School, Ca.
EL CAJON, California
Thursday – March 22, 2001
“Our school resource officer, Rich Agundez, is my personal hero…”
El Cajon, California — Gunfire erupted at a San Diego-area high school Thursday, injuring at least 10 people, authorities said. Three teens and two teacher have been wounded and others injured by none-gunfire. The shooting at Granite Hills was reported at 12:54 p.m. Granite Hills High, with 2,900 students. The shooting occurred just four miles south of Santee, Calif., the scene of the most recent school shooting. At least one person was in custody. “School Shooting Map”
Granite Hills High – March 22, 2001, El Cajon, California. [Multi Hazard Emergency/Crisis Response Plan] Five people were shot and possible others were injured by none gunfire Thursday as gunfire erupted at a high school less than three weeks after two students were killed at a nearby school.
An 18-year-old suspect was one of the five with gunshot wounds, police said. The one other victim was believed to be a 16-year-old, but no details were released. The other victims were students and adults injured by broken glass and by falling, McClure said. The midday shooting at Granite Hills High School sparked a confusing scene, with officers scrambling across the campus as many of the 2,900 students fled to a nearby park.
What happened wasn’t immediately clear: McClure said a school police officer confronted the gunman near the administration building. School district spokesman Jim Esterbrooks said an El Cajon police officer was making a presentation to students when the shooting occurred.
“That probably saved the school from a far worse fate,” Esterbrooks said.
The gunman was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with a policeman, he said, but he did not know if it was the officer making the presentation.
An 18-year-old believed to be the shooter was taken to surgery for a bullet wound to the face, said Eileen Cornish, a spokeswoman for Sharp Memorial Hospital. The hospital also received a 16-year-old student with a superficial wound to the chest, she said. “My information right now is that no one was seriously injured,” said Granger Ward, superintendent of Grossmont Union High School District.
Junior Chris Wesley told KGTV he recognized the suspect as a student of Granite Hills last year. The gunman fired at least eight shots and reloaded his weapon during the shooting, Wesley said.
“It just seemed like he was planning on doing it,” Wesley said. [Assessment of Early Warning Signs] Ryan Carrillo, a sophomore at the school, told KGTV that he heard gunshots as he walked to a bathroom near the school office.
“It sounded like an explosion, like in a chemistry class or something,” he said of the first two shots he heard. After hearing five more shots, he ran out of the school. [Multi Hazard Emergency/Crisis Response Plan] San Diego County sheriff’s spokesman Dan Papp said deputies were also at the school taking a report when the shooting happened, but he didn’t know why.
Surrounding streets were closed and students streamed from the school and walked to a nearby grade school, where they were to be picked up by their parents.
“There’s parents all over the place, everybody’s on the cell phones,” said one man at the scene. “One mother was standing here talking with her daughter, who’s actually in one of the classrooms, talking to her on the cell phone.”
Police were urging parents not to travel to the school in an attempt to retrieve their children.
A staging area near the school was being set up at a nearby elementary school where parents and children could reunite, Cook said.
Granite Hills High is just a few miles south of Santana High School in Santee, where a 15-year-old student allegedly killed two classmates and injured 13 others on March 5. Both schools are in the same district 17 miles east of San Diego. (See the Lock Out Violence Everyday Campaign – A community violence prevention program).
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Mike Nelson, MS, LPC, NCC
Keys To Safer Schools.com
EL CAJON, Calif. – Three weeks ago, after a deadly shooting spree at Santana High School, officials at the regional school district took steps to prevent such an attack from ever happening again.
Full-time, armed police officers were assigned to the district’s 12 campuses. Administrators and teachers reviewed crisis plans, and students were encouraged to report the slightest threat or rumor.
In spite of the precautions, a Granite Hills High School senior named Jason Hoffman allegedly knelt next to a eucalyptus tree in a small quad in front of the school and opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun, wounding three students and two teachers.
In the aftermath of Thursday’s attack, school and city officials wonder if there is anything they can do to prevent campus violence.
“You figure the odds are astronomical it would happen in the same school district,” said El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis, a 1966 Granite Hills graduate. “We’re just going to have to seek a solution – if there is one.”
The Granite Hills and Santana campuses are both in the Grossmont Union High School District, hardly six miles apart. Students from the schools share sports rivalries and friendships, and see each other on Sundays at church.
After the March 5 rampage at Santana, district officials were well aware of the possibility of a copycat crime, said school board member Ted Crooks.
Safety had always been a top priority, he said, but officials stressed it more than ever at Granite Hills and other campuses.
Granite Hills “was as prepared and as proactive as they could have been,” said Dan McGeorge, school board president.
“I don’t think the administration is to blame,” added Sean Connacher, 18, a Granite Hills senior. “He was an angry kid. What are they going to do?”
Moments after the gunfire started Thursday, Hoffman was chased and shot by campus police Agent Rich Agundez Jr. Hoffman was hospitalized with a broken jaw and a bullet wound to his buttocks. He faces probable charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
“Our school resource officer, Rich Agundez, is my personal hero because he acted immediately,” said Granite Hills Principal Georgette Torres. “I’m just glad he was in the office, because if he wasn’t there, a lot of people would have died.”
“I think that the effectiveness of the response in minimizing the circumstances clearly shows this school was well-prepared,” McGeorge said.
Ironically, those preparations were discussed at a meeting of school administrators and Granite Hills parents the night before the attack at the school.
“Thankfully, this school responded exactly the way we all said it would the night before,” Crooks said.
Experts say it’s not possible to totally eliminate the threat of school violence, but they believe it can be minimized with increased security and other measures.
“You don’t want to turn teachers into the Gestapo. And yet at the same time, it’s difficult for a student to focus on decimal placement in math class if he or she is worried about being shot before the day is out,” said Ronald D. Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center. “So it’s a question of how do you strike a balance.”
“I’m supposed to feel safe at school. If I come to school thinking I’m going to be shot, what’s that going to do?” said Billy Ditzler, 16, who sprained his neck and back Thursday diving to the floor when the gunfire began. “I’m just afraid it’s going to happen again.”
Some frightened parents are demanding tighter security while others are seeking alternative ways to educate their children.
“Brick-and-mortar schools will cease to exist if this continues,” said Mike Cook, who is considering home-schooling his 15-year-old daughter rather than allowing her to return to Granite Hills.
“If we can’t stop it, home-schooling will start and Internet education will take over,” he said.
Granite Hills High Shooter Sentenced
SAN DIEGO, September 13, 2001 — An El Cajon student who wounded five people in a shooting rampage on a high school campus in March pleaded guilty today and agreed to a life term with a possibility of parole.
Under the agreement reached with prosecutors, Jason A. Hoffman will serve at least 17 years for discharging a firearm. After this sentence is completed, he will begin serving a life term for the attempted murder of Granite Hills High School Vice Principal Daniel Barnes.
Hoffman, 18, showed little emotion and offered no explanation for his actions as he pleaded guilty and listened to the judge’s response. On March 22, Hoffman arrived at Granite Hills High School about 1 p.m., armed with a Mossberg pump-action 12-gauge shotgun and a .22-caliber pistol. He fired at least eight rounds from the shotgun but apparently did not use the pistol.
Hoffman fired one round at his principal but missed. He wounded three students and two teachers before he was shot in the face by School Resource Officer Rich Agundez Jr. and then arrested. Agundez, an SRO, fired five rounds from his service revolver. One of the bullets disabled Hoffman’s shotgun. The officer was not hurt.
Mike Nelson, MS, LPC, NCC
Keys To Safer Schools.com