Thousands gather at candlelight vigil in Santa Clarita to remember school shooting victims

Students say the Pledge of Allegiance as thousands gather at Central Park in Santa Clarita to remember those killed and wounded in the Saugus High School shooting.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Thousands of Santa Clarita residents gathered for a candlelight vigil Sunday night — an evening of memories, music and worship — to honor the two students killed in the shooting at Saugus High School.

Community members converged on Central Park after sunset to console each other as they mourned the deaths of 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell, who were memorialized by their friends.

Mourners crowded on sidewalks, many wearing “Saugus strong” jackets and shirts and carrying blue glow-stick like candles. The neighborhood streets were jammed for about a mile around the 130-acre park, a popular community gathering spot just down the street from the high school. The evening opened much like a church service with prayer and a band playing and singing contemporary Christian songs.

Saugus High School Principal Vincent Ferry choked up as he spoke of the heroism of the staff and students, and the two short lives of Gracie and Dominic.

“They are being prayed for by the world,” Ferry said.

He called on the Saugus community to “grieve together” and insisted that it’s no time to be stoic.


To be “strong is the ability to welcome our tears in the midst of our pain,” Ferry said.

Addison Koegle, a student injured in the shooting, addressed the crowd through an audio message. “I’m doing well and I’m home with my family,” she said. “Gracie was my best friend.”

Addison recalled running a lemonade stand with Gracie when they were younger. She remembered the school field trips and the private jokes. She had only known Dominic for a few months, she said, but “he never failed to make me smile.”

Members of the ROTC attend a candlelight vigil Sunday night at Central Park.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

One of Dominic’s ROTC comrades described him as “the kindest person I know.” He was always willing to help cadets who were struggling.

At home, Dominic was the oldest of four boys, and “never minded changing diapers,” a relative said.

Last Thursday, student Nathaniel Berhow pulled a .45-caliber handgun from his backpack and opened fire in the school’s quad, killing Gracie and Dominic and wounding three others, authorities said. He died a day later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Berhow carried out the attack on his 16th birthday after being dropped off at school by his mother, authorities said. A motive for the shootings has not been determined.

Saugus High School will remain closed until Dec. 2.

(L-R) Priscilla Arquelles, 17, Kayla Hynes, 16, Gracyn Webb, 17, and Carli Chorpash, 17, hold each other as thousands gather at Central Park in Santa Clarita.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)