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Saugus students barricaded themselves in classrooms, fearing gunman would target them

Parents are reunited with their children at Saugus High School
Parents are reunited with their children at Saugus High School after a shooting Thursday morning that left one student dead.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Word that there was a shooting at Saugus High School swept through the campus in different ways Thursday morning.

Some students heard gunshots. Others got text messages from friends. Others saw classmates running and joined them.

Dania Salman, a 17-year-old senior, doesn’t have a first-period class and was doing homework in an open classroom with other student government members about 7:30 a.m. when she heard three gunshots and saw people starting to run. She said a friend who was out in the quad area sitting at a table one down from the gunman ran inside to the classroom where Salman was when the shooting started.

The six students barricaded the doors with tables, but they didn’t have a key they needed to lock the doors, which open outward.

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“We were scared the shooter would come in,” Salman said. They hid under tables and placed boxes in front of themselves, she said, so the assailant would “think it’s boxes under the table and not people.”

Saugus High shooting resources

Emma Petersen, 14, was in a band room practicing for an audition when she heard three gunshots and another student yelled, “Run!” She grabbed her instrument and fled with a group all the way to nearby Central Park, where parents and students would reunite later in the morning. Petersen and others said it was fortunate the band had the week off, as the student musicians would normally have been practicing on a field near the shooting scene at the time the gunfire rang out.

What we know: The suspect in the Saugus High School shooting turned 16 today and was described by a classmate as a ‘quiet kid.’

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Another member of the band, 17-year-old senior Ayla Wright, said she saw a wounded student being tended to in the choir room. She said that had she and her bandmates been practicing at the time, members might not have heard panicked shouts warning of the shooting.

“If we would have been on the field, we’re so loud, we might not have even heard the shouting,” she said.

Andrei Mojica, 17, was in his AP government class going over a worksheet when his teacher went outside and saw people running. Nobody in class panicked until somebody opened their door and said: “There’s a shooter on campus.”

“That’s when my heart sank,” he said. In an instant, the class of about 30 were up and barricading the doors with desks and tables. They’d practiced this before, but “there was just something different about it from a simple drill to real life.”

The class sat in silence and had a fire extinguisher they were prepared to use as a weapon if anyone came into the classroom. They didn’t hear any shots, but were unsure where the shooter was.

“We had no clue whether the shooter was on the opposite side of campus or right outside our door,” Mojica said. “That fear made it feel like we were waiting in silence forever.”

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Eventually, a SWAT team came and escorted them out in a single-file line.

“How do we recover and step forward past this incident?” the senior asked


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