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‘Texas school shooter wanted to kill himself too, but lost his nerve in the end’

Despite Dimitrios Pagourtzis’s deviant social media posts, teachers and schoolmates described him as a loner and a quiet person – and not in a creepy way. He had no criminal history or prior run-ins with the law either.

world Updated: May 19, 2018 23:42 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Texas,Santa Fe,High school shooting
Dimitrios Pagourtzis allegedly used a shotgun and a .38 revolver belonging to his father, which he smuggled into school under a long trench coat.(REUTERS photo)

Dimitrios Pagourtzis planned to commit suicide after the shooting spree in which he gunned down nine fellow students and a teacher at his Santa Fe school in Texas on Friday morning, but lost his nerve in the end and gave himself up, authorities said.

The 17-year-old gunman has been charged with capital murder, which could get him the death penalty if convicted. He is being held in solitary confinement.

Pagourtzis, who made a brief appearance in court later in the evening, told investigators that he spared students he liked. “He did not shoot students he liked so he could have his story told,” a probable cause affidavit filed in the local Galveston County court stated.

The shooting suspect used a shotgun and a .38 revolver belonging to his father, which he smuggled into school under a long trench coat. His choice of apparel did not arouse suspicion despite the warm temperature because he was known to wear it often.

“He gave himself up and admitted that he didn’t have the courage to commit suicide,” Texas governor George Abbott said at a news conference.

The governor confirmed that nine victims were students of the school, and the tenth a teacher. Ten others, including a police officer assigned to the school, were wounded.

Law enforcement officers recovered explosives — pipe bombs, pressure cooker bombs and molotov cocktails — left by the gunman. Some of the devices were found on the school campus, and others were recovered from his car, home and the trailer he assembled them at.

While Pagourtzis’s motivation remains unclear, posts on his social media accounts included photographs of a custom-made tee-shirt with ‘Born to Kill’ emblazoned across the front and a coat with an iron cross – among other insignia. In another post he wrote, “Hammer and Sickle=Rebellion. Rising Sun=Kamikaze Tactics. Iron Cross=Bravery. Baphomet=Evil”, while a photograph featured a Dangerous Days album cover with a song called “Humans Are Such Easy Prey”.

All the posts have since been taken down.

Women embrace during a prayer vigil following a shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, on Friday. (AP)

However, published accounts of the shooting suspect by friends, teachers and schoolmates described him as a loner and a quiet person – but not in a creepy way. He was not very athletic, but worked hard on the school junior varsity football team.

Despite his social media postings, authorities have no significant understanding of why the boy wrecked the lives of so many families in a quiet rural community 35 miles outside Houston.

Governor Abbott told reporters that the suspect’s “slate is pretty clean” and that he did not have a criminal history or prior run-ins with police. “We have what are often categorized as red flag warnings, and here the red flag warnings were either non-existent or very imperceptible,” he said.

Comparisons were drawn to the gunman from the February 14 shooting at a high school in Florida in which 17 people – including 14 students – were killed. The alleged killer, Nikolas Cruz, had a history of violence that had worried his mother enough to call police for help several times.

Pakistani victim

One of the nine students killed in the Texas school shooting was Sabika Sheikh, a exchange student from Pakistan, the country’s embassy in DC announced Friday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Sabika’s family and friends,” Pakistani ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said in a statement.

Sayyed Zaman Haider, another exchange student, told The Washington Post that Sabika was from Karachi and was studying through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program, funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Haider said Sheikh was just about to return home. She was almost done with her cultural exchange as the academic year was ending.

First Published: May 19, 2018 10:43 IST