Newsletter: A deadly day at Saugus High School

Students evacuated from Saugus High School board buses to be taken to a reunification area after the shooting in Santa Clarita, Calif.
Students evacuated from Saugus High School board buses to be taken to a reunification area after the shooting in Santa Clarita, Calif.
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Nov. 15, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

By now, the wretchedly unthinkable has become almost rote. You already know that students and teachers barricaded doors with desks and tables, that sobbing children rushed to text their parents from hiding spots, that chaos exploded in the very place that should have been a haven.

The particulars will pummel your heart, but the rough contours will not surprise you. We know how this story goes because we have seen it unfold so many times before.


On Thursday morning, a 16-year-old opened fire at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, killing two students and wounding three other teens. This was at least the 11th shooting on a high school or college campus this year.

The Saugus High School students were scheduled to be in their first-period classes when 16 seconds of fire from a .45-caliber handgun irrevocably cleaved their lives into “before” and “after.” And they were the lucky ones. For two of their classmates there will be no next chapter. A 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy died after being transported to a hospital.

Andrei Mojica, 17, was in his AP government class when someone opened the door and told them that there was a shooter on campus. Soon, the class was barricading the doors. He told my colleagues on the scene that he and his classmates had practiced this before, but “there was just something different about it from a simple drill to real life.”

[Read the story: “Saugus students barricaded themselves in classrooms, fearing gunman would target them” in the Los Angeles Times]

Across the country in the U.S. Capitol, a Connecticut lawmaker was giving a speech about gun violence on the Senate floor when someone passed him a note, interrupting the speech.

“As I speak, on the floor right now, there is a school shooting,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal then said, according to BuzzFeed. “How can we turn the other way? How can we refuse to see that shooting in real time demanding our attention, requiring our action?”

On the Saugus High School campus, a security camera on the quad showed the suspect pulling the handgun from his backpack and shooting the students before putting the gun to his own head. Thursday was the suspect’s 16th birthday. Described by neighbors and classmates as a “quiet” kid, he is now in the hospital in “grave condition.”

[Read the story: “What we know about Saugus High shooting suspect” in the Los Angeles Times]

Here’s some more coverage about the tragedy:

  • Saugus High suspect opened fire on a crowded quad in a 16-second attack that left two dead and three wounded, the sheriff says. Los Angeles Times
  • The frantic text from his sister at Saugus High: “There is a shooter, call 911.” Los Angeles Times
  • Santa Clarita shooting leaves kids at a Thanksgiving pageant crying and trying to understand. Los Angeles Times
  • A desperate father used the Find My iPhone app to locate his son. Los Angeles Times
  • How to talk to your kids about school shootings: Here are some tips from the National Assn. of School Psychologists and other mental health experts. Los Angeles Times

And now, here’s what else is happening across California:


Prefer living in the past? The Los Angeles Times has a new account on Instagram dedicated to archival photos. Los Angeles Times

Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger won the National League MVP Award. He is the Dodgers’ first MVP since Clayton Kershaw in 2014 and their first position player to win the award since Kirk Gibson in 1988. Los Angeles Times

Cody Bellinger flexes his muscle as he rounds the bases on a second inning, two run homer.
Cody Bellinger flexes his muscle as he rounds the bases on a second inning, two run homer.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Plus: Angels outfielder Mike Trout was voted the American League’s most valuable player for a third time. Los Angeles Times

Why street vendors make cities feel safer: Vendors not only activate public space — they do so in places chronically ignored by city planners. Curbed

Fundraising for LACMA’s new building has stalled as the costs balloon. Four-fifths of the $650 million needed had been pledged by summer 2018, but next to nothing has been raised since. Los Angeles Times

Hollywood writers fired their agents. Now agencies are sidelining writers in new deals. Los Angeles Times

The unbearable strangeness of being Shia LaBeouf: In this interview with fellow former child star Kristen Stewart, LaBeouf talks about how difficult he finds life to be when he’s not on a set. Stewart then suggests he take a pottery class. “Maybe I will,” LaBeouf responds.I won’t like pottery in life. But I will love pottery on set. I don’t like ice cream in life. But if you give me ice cream on a set, I [expletive] love ice cream. I think that’s what this does for me. It makes me love things. This job feels like the conduit for love for me.” Variety

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The California congressional delegation is criticizing the process by which federal immigration officials sought bids for four private immigration detention facilities in the state last month. Desert Sun


Leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are backing a prospective ballot measure to overhaul Proposition 13, California’s landmark tax-cutting law. Of course, California property taxes don’t fall under the purview of U.S. presidents, but that’s beside the point for the candidates. The intended audience for their message “is not so much ordinary Californians — most of whom are not yet paying close attention to a 2020 measure that would boost property taxes for large businesses — as it is organized labor, a key Democratic constituency.” San Francisco Chronicle

A quick refresher on Prop. 13, because you’ll probably be hearing a whole lot more about it in the coming months: Passed as a ballot measure in 1978, Prop. 13 strictly limits property tax increases in the state. It’s long been considered “the third rail” of California politics — just a few years ago, former Gov. Jerry Brown called it “a sacred doctrine that should never be questioned.” But the questions are coming, and a ballot measure to overhaul that “sacred doctrine” is all but certain to win a spot on the November 2020 ballot.

Meet the high-profile outsider coming in to lead the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency: Transportation consultant Jeffrey Tumlin has pledged to fix the subway, fill the bus driver shortages and bring order to an agency now famous for chaos. San Francisco Chronicle

A coalition of Native American tribes proposed an initiative to legalize sports betting in California. The filing of papers for an initiative supported by 18 tribes comes just four months after a bill was introduced in the state Legislature that would also put a sports betting measure on the 2020 ballot. Los Angeles Times


Most of California is either abnormally dry or has slipped into moderate drought, according to U.S. Drought Monitor data from Nov. 12 that was released Thursday. Los Angeles Times

Power shutoffs during fires can pose a safety risk for gated communities, Encinitas’ fire chief says. The City Council is considering requiring all gates to remain open during high-fire-risk periods. San Diego Union-Tribune


What are the most popular NFL teams in your ZIP Code? Use this interactive map to find out. Los Angeles Times

California markets saw a dip in luxury home prices. Median prices for high-end homes were down in August in Marin County, Los Angeles and Santa Clara, compared to the same period last year. Barron’s

A flag silhouette mysteriously appeared in northeast Bakersfield, then disappeared in the dark of night."[T]he question remains: Who is daring enough to climb a mound of dirt in the dark of night to install the image — and polite enough to remove it before crews returned to work on Tuesday?”Bakersfield Californian

Nari is San Francisco’s “most exciting new restaurant,” according to restaurant critic Soleil Ho. San Francisco Chronicle

The family-owned Bay City Flower Company has shuttered. The closure marks the end of an era for a company started 110 years ago by a Japanese immigrant who survived the Great Depression and the family’s internment during World War II and grew into one of the largest employers in Half Moon Bay. KQED

Today in rich people’s hobbies that sound like a lot of work: Sophisticated hot rodders — mostly Californians — are cannibalizing crashed electric cars and using their batteries to create electrified sports cars and muscle cars. Los Angeles Times

Leaving California? These places will pay you to move there. Mercury News


Los Angeles: cloudy, 70. San Diego: partly sunny, 67. San Francisco: sunny, 61. San Jose: partly sunny, 65. Sacramento: partly sunny, 68. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Molly Freeman:

“In Mission Beach where I grew up in San Diego I lived a five-minute walk from the Pacific Ocean and five minutes from Mission Bay. On New Year’s Day, my friend and I would water ski over glassy waters on the bay, awakening late-night New Year’s Eve revelers. For me it was exhilarating, and I am sure irritating to the sleepy residents along the bay’s shore. The beauty of the waters is my lifelong touchstone.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.