A California teacher’s brave conversation with a 16-year-old gunman who had begun opening fire on his classmates allowed 28 other students to escape what could have been much bigger. Ryan Heber, a science teacher, calmly confronted the teenager after he shot and wounded a classmate. The child he shot had bullied him for more than a year at Taft Union High School.
The teen gunman told Heber:
“I don’t want to shoot you.”
Heber convinced the teen gunman to drop his weapon, a high powered shotgun. Responding to gunfire alerts, campus supervisor Kim Lee Fields entered the classroom and helped Heber talk the boy into releasing the weapon.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said:
“This teacher and this counselor stood there face-to-face not knowing if he was going to shoot them. They probably expected the worst and hoped for the best, but they gave the students a chance to escape.”
The student that was targeted and shot was airlifted to a hospital and remains in critical, but stable condition. Today he undergoes surgery.
It matters little that only one person was critically hurt, says the Bakersfield Californian. One is still too many in a country where school shootings are happening too often. There is a difference between Thursday’s incident at Taft Union High School and the ones that have received fame over the last few years. The weapon of choice was the student’s older brother’s shotgun, not a semi-automatic weapon.
Police said the teen began plotting on Wednesday night to kill two students in retaliation for bullying him. Youngblood states:
“He planned the event. Certainly he believed that the two people he targeted had bullied him, in his mind. Whether that occurred or not we don’t know yet. … The heroics of these two people goes without saying. … They could have just as easily … tried to get out of the classroom and left students, and they didn’t. They knew not to let him leave the classroom with that shotgun.”
The school has an armed security guard, but Thursday morning he was not on campus, according to ABC News.
Youngblood said the teenager’s charge will be attempted murder, but the district attorney will decide whether or not the student should be tried as an adult.