Student Shot, Killed in Class; 1 Arrested : Shooting: Both men were apparently 'friendly acquaintances' at a Garden Grove adult education center.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A student in an adult education class was shot and killed Wednesday, apparently by a young man at an adjacent desk, police said.

The victim and the gunman were apparently "friendly acquaintances" and police have not ruled out the possibility that the shooting at the Chapman-Hellinga Education Center was unintentional.

Jose Flores Tirado, 19, of Santa Ana died at UCI Medical Center in Orange of a gunshot wound to the chest. Binh Thanh Ma, 18, of Garden Grove was arrested on suspicion of murder.

The 25 other students in the English language class scattered when the shot was fired shortly before 9 a.m. No one else was injured.

After the shooting, Ma allegedly fled the classroom and discarded the weapon. Witnesses told police that Ma went to the parking lot and hid in his car. After being spotted there by a passerby, he walked to the principal's office, sat down and waited to be arrested, said Garden Grove Police Sgt. Doug Morrill. Police recovered the weapon in the school athletic field.

Ma's father, Tam Ma, said Wednesday: "I am very surprised. I don't know why my son would have a gun.

"I never let him keep a gun," Tam Ma said. "He left home this morning with nothing, but after he leaves, I don't know what he does."

He said his son left Vietnam a year and a half ago to join him in this country and has been enrolled at the education center for much of that time.

Binh Thanh Ma and Tirado were full-time students at the adult education center. Students in the class told police that Binh Thanh Ma is not enrolled in the class where the shooting occurred, but shows up frequently to help the teacher.

Students in the class have told investigators there was no confrontation before the shooting and that the two were "just having a conversation" when the shot was fired.

"The people who saw it said they could not overhear what they talked about," Morrill said. "But there was no indication of anything (before the killing) and then the shooting happened quickly."

The teacher, whose name was not released, told police she thought the loud bang was an explosion and ordered the students out of the class. Tirado was then found lying on the floor of the room.

"It is unclear if there was a motive in the shooting," Morrill said. The teacher told police that Binh Thanh Ma was well-liked by students.

After Binh Thanh Ma fled the classroom, police began to search the campus for him.

"One of our officers just walked into the principal's office to verify (Binh Thanh Ma's name) and looked over and there he was," Morrill said. Binh Thanh Ma "admitted who he was and was arrested without incident."

School officials said that about 500 people were on campus at the time of the shooting. Several classes in adjacent rooms were canceled, but all other campus activity was conducted as scheduled, said Alan Trudell, spokesman for the Garden Grove Unified School District.

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