Shaken students said they heard a fire alarm go off and then several shots ring out just before 7:30 a.m. local time (8:30 a.m. ET).
“Next thing you know we hear these loud boom, boom, boom sounds coming from the right of us and all the administrators and teachers are saying, ‘Run! Run! Run!,’ ” student Dakota Shrader told NBC News. “There was nothing we could do but run.”
Other students said the shots were fired in an art class.
“It was very scary,” another student told reporters. “My brother was in the classroom when it happened.”
Students evacuated from the school were met outside by tearful and terrified parents while Galveston County sheriff’s deputies secured the scene.
“I sped down here as fast as I could,” Shannon Curry, whose daughter Paige Curry is a junior, told KPRC. “She called me and said there were shots at the school. … I told her to listen to her teacher, to stay down.”
A complaint filed against Pagourtzis said he surrendered around 8:02 a.m. local time. Police said he gave a statement admitting that had shot multiple people with the intention of killing them. He had a Remington 870 shotgun and a .38-caliber pistol, the document said.
While the drama was unfolding, a flag-toting man wearing a Make America Great Again cap and a pistol by his side suddenly appeared outside the school. He was immediately stopped by police.
“This idiot is walking down the street with a pistol by his side,” one outraged man told KPRC. “I believe in the Second Amendment. But this is a crime scene. … This is a slap in the face.”
In Washington, President Donald Trump weighed in on the massacre.
School shooting in Texas. Early reports not looking good. God bless all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2018
“This has been going on too long in our country, too many years, too many decades now,” Trump said. “We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack.”
Speaking at the vigil in Santa Fe, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said, “Tonight all of Texas is grieving,” Cruz said at the vigil. “Our entire state, and all across the country, millions are lifting this community up in prayer, are lifting the students up in prayer who went through hell this morning.”
Both Trump and Cruz are staunch supporters of the National Rifle Association and have resisted attempts to tighten gun control.
In Parkland, Florida, one of the students who survived the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — and who has helped lead the charge against the proliferation of guns — also chimed in.
Get ready for two weeks of media coverage of politicians acting like they give a shit when in reality they just want to boost their approval ratings before midterms.
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) May 18, 2018
There have been 16 school shootings this year, according to a Washington Post database that keeps an ongoing tally of these tragedies. And more than 214,000 students in the U.S. have experienced gun violence at school since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, where two students — dressed in trenchcoats — murdered 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves.
Santa Fe is a city of 13,000 about 30 miles southeast of Houston and more than 200 miles east of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman barged into a church last fall and murdered 26 people — almost half of them children — with a Ruger assault-type rifle.
Shrader, the terrified student, said she’s not sure if she’ll ever be able to walk back into the school.
“This is the place where we’re supposed to be safe,” she said. “I don’t feel safe in this town anymore.”