SANTA FE (Texas) • A nation plagued by a wrenching loop of mass school shootings watched the latest horror play out in a small south-eastern Texas town last week, as a young student armed with a shotgun and a .38 revolver opened fire on his high school campus, killing 10 people and wounding 10 more, the authorities said.
By the end of Friday, 17-year-old suspect Dimitrios Pagourtzis had surrendered and been taken into custody. He is being held on capital murder charges, meaning he could face the death penalty.
It was barely after 7.30am at Santa Fe High School, 56km south-east of Houston, when the first crack of gunfire first resounded through the halls.
Freshman Evan San Miguel, 15, said he was in his art class when the suspect burst in and yelled: "Surprise!" Then the shooting started.
"It was terrifying, terrifying," Evan recalled hours later. "I didn't even know if I was going to make it home or not."
Courtney Marshall, 15, who was in the class, said: "I wanted to take care of my friends, but I knew I had to get out of there." She added that she saw at least one person hit. "I knew the guy behind me was dead."
A DAY OF TERROR
I wanted to take care of my friends, but I knew I had to get out of there. I knew the guy behind me was dead.
COURTNEY MARSHALL, 15, who saw at least one person shot at Santa Fe High School.
The suspect was engaged by two school officers, including one in critical condition after a gunshot wound to his elbow, officials said.
Pagourtzis, a football player and honour student, spared people he liked so he could have his story told, a charge sheet obtained by Reuters showed.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said investigators had seen a T-shirt on the suspect's Facebook page that read "Born to Kill", and the authorities were examining his journal. But there were no outward signs he had been planning an attack, he said.
Mr Abbott said the suspect obtained the firearms from his father, who had likely acquired them legally, and also left behind explosive devices.
The authorities said Pagourtzis wrote in journals about plans to attack the school, then turn the gun on himself. But when the moment came, the Texas governor noted, "he didn't have the courage to commit the suicide that he wanted".
Law-enforcement authorities were questioning two "people of interest", the governor said.
President Donald Trump expressed "sadness and heartbreak" over the shooting and ordered US flags to fly at half-mast for the next few days. Hundreds of people turned out for a candlelight vigil as the community sought to cope with the tragedy. Texas was expected to release the names of the nine slain students and teacher yesterday.
The Pakistan embassy in Washington identified one of the victims on Twitter as Ms Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, while the brother-in-law of Ms Cynthia Tisdale, a teacher's aide and mother of four, said on Facebook she was killed in the attack.
Separately, one person was killed and another wounded when shots were fired after a high school graduation ceremony late last Friday in the state of Georgia, Clayton County police said. Local media said shots were fired after an argument broke out near Mt Zion High School. The victims were adult women, police said.
NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE