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Santa Clarita school shooting: Weapons and social media are examined for clues

Tom Gibson
Tom Gibson, whose children attended Saugus High School and whose grandson is a current student, hangs a banner in Santa Clarita’s Central Park for a memorial for the victims of Thursday’s shooting.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Authorities this week are examining weapons seized from the home of a teenager they say opened fire at Saugus High School and are scrubbing social media accounts, trying to learn more about what spurred the violence that left two students dead and three wounded in Santa Clarita.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide Capt. Kent Wegener said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was examining a cache of unregistered weapons seized from the home of Nathaniel Berhow. In addition, homicide detectives are working with the U.S. Secret Service to examine the teen’s electronics and social media accounts. An Instagram account initially thought to belong to Berhow was a hoax created by someone in the aftermath of the shooting, Wegener said.

Results of both the weapons and electronics investigations are expected by the end of the week, authorities said.

Last week, a Saugus High School student pulled a pistol from his backpack, shooting five classmates and himself. Now, Santa Clarita, still reeling from devastating wildfires, faces an even deeper grief.
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Officials remain unsure about where the .45-caliber handgun used to carry out the attack Thursday morning was acquired. They are trying to determine whether the gun was made from parts purchased separately and then assembled, law enforcement sources told The Times. Such weapons, known as “ghost guns,” do not have serial numbers and can be manufactured from parts ordered through the mail or acquired from underground makers.

Authorities said Berhow carried out the deadly attack on his 16th birthday after being dropped off at school by his mother. They say school surveillance video shows a boy pulling a pistol from his backpack and opening fire in the quad, killing 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell and wounding three others in an attack that lasted 16 seconds.

At one point during the attack, the weapon jammed and the gunman cleared the firearm before he continued shooting. He appeared to know how many shots he had fired and to have left the final round for himself, ending the attack with a gunshot to his head, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

Investigators found several firearms during a search of the teen’s home, and some were not registered. Villanueva did not specify what types of guns were recovered.

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A candlelight vigil will be held Sunday evening for the students killed in the Southern California school shooting. The district’s other campuses will reopen Monday.

Berhow’s late father is said to have been an avid hunter, but it’s unclear whether any of the weapons found at the house in Santa Clarita belonged to him.

Investigators believed the attack was planned but that no specific students were targeted.


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