Texas school shooting: Sheriff says he doesn’t believe any victims killed in crossfire with gunman

(CNN) – Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said Monday he doesn’t believe any of the victims killed in Friday’s mass shooting were shot by officers during the crossfire with the suspected shooter at the Santa Fe, Texas, high school.

The sheriff said two school resource officers, who arrived at the school about four minutes after the shooting started and engaged the suspected shooter, were “heroes.” Their actions enabled other officers to arrive and evacuate teachers, administrators and students, Trochesset told reporters.

Trouchesset said officers exchanged gunfire with suspected shooter and negotiated with him for a 25-minute-span before he surrendered. The suspect and officers did not exchange gunfire that entire time, the sheriff said. At one point, officers were talking to the shooter from the hallway as he was in the classroom, the sheriff said

The sheriff said “there were minimal shots fired, at least from us, from law enforcement” during the gunfire exchange.

“From what I see, I don’t believe any of the individuals that were killed” were shot law enforcement during the crossfire with the suspect, Trochesset said.

Trochesset said authorities are waiting for the medical examiner’s autopsies to be sure.

A “decent amount of cameras in the school” will help investigators piece together a timeline, Trochesset said earlier.

By the end of the melee, eight students and two teachers were killed. The suspect was taken into custody.

Trochesset said officers arrived at the school’s art lab section within about four minutes of the start of the shooting. The officers were in a hallway and exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who was in a classroom, he said.

“They contained him in that one area, isolated to them, engaging with them, so he did no more damage to other classes,” the sheriff said.

As “other heroes” arrived and ran toward the gunfire, students and teachers ran from the gunfire, he said.

“In every door they opened, they weren’t sure what was on the other side of it, but they opened those doors continuously, time after time, until that school was cleared,” the sheriff said.”That’s what you call a hero.”

The sheriff said said tragedy hit home for him. He said his granddaughter, a student at the school, was three doors down from where the shooting occurred.

“Anybody wants to hear their heart stop and see how long they cannot breathe, wait till that phone call comes in, until you know they’re safe,” he said.

He added: “And her best friend that spent the night at my house, swam in my pool, is dead from a tragedy.”

Authorities identified the gunman as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17. He was armed with a sawed-off shotgun and a .38 caliber handgun, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Last week, Abbott said that his information was that the guns were obtained from the suspect’s father. However, a law enforcement official told CNN that authorities are still trying to determine whether the shooter got the two guns from his father.

Sawed-off shotguns are illegal without a permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The .38 caliber handgun was purchased in the early 1990s, the official said.

Investigators have identified the original buyers, but how the weapons moved from them to the shooter is still being determined, the official said.

CNN has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.

The suspect told an investigator he acted alone and spared people he liked because he wanted his story told, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Trochesset said the suspect was on suicide watch in the Galveston County Jail on Monday.

One of the students killed, Shana Fisher, had rejected the suspect’s advances for months, her mother Sadie Baze said. Finally, about a week ago, she stood up to him in the middle of class to proclaim she would not go out with him.

Baze said she believes the incident embarrassed the suspect so much that he targeted Shana. “One of the shotgun shells was for my daughter,” she said.

Shana had turned 16 days earlier.

Another student killed, Jared Black, turned 17 last week and was supposed to have a birthday party Saturday.

The massacre also claimed the lives of students Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student; Chris Stone; Angelique Ramirez; Christian Riley Garcia; Aaron Kyle McLeod; and Kimberly Vaughan. Teachers Glenda Ann Perkins and Cynthia Tisdale were also killed.

The people hospitalized included retired Houston police Officer John Barnes, who served as a resource officer at the school and confronted the gunman.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted Friday that he had visited Barnes in the hospital, and he was “hanging in there.”

Deedra Van Ness’ daughter, Isabelle Laymance, survived the shooting by hiding in a classroom closet.

In a Facebook post Saturday titled “longest day of my life,” she said her daughter told her the gunman was “yelling woo hoo!” as he fired in the classroom next door.

Pagourtzis is being held without bail and is accused of capital murder of multiple people and aggravated assault on a public servant. He has not entered a plea.

Attorneys Robert Barfield and Nicholas Poehl said they had met with Pagourtzis for two 30-minute visits. Barfield said his client is “not doing well” and is “confused.”

The suspect won’t face the death penalty if he is convicted. Under Texas law, offenders who are under age 18 and charged with a capital offense face a maximum punishment of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years.

While the massacre reignited the debate over gun control, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said guns aren’t to blame. Instead, he put the blame on issues such as abortion, violent video games and the lack of armed teachers.

“The video games issue, we have got to address in this country. Based on all the research we have done, 97%, according to psychologists and psychiatrists … of teenagers view video games, and 85% of those video games are violent,” Patrick said Sunday.

“And what are these games showing you how to do? Kill people. … The vast majority [of psychologists and psychiatrists] will tell you it leads them to become numb to violence, to have less empathy to their victims and be more aggressive. Does that impact everyone who views them? No, but it obviously is part of the problem.”

He also made a connection between violent video games and abortions.

“We have 50 million abortions. We have families that are broken apart, no fathers at home. We have incredible heinous violence as a game, two hours a day in front of their eyes,” Patrick said. “And we stand here and we wonder why this happens to certain students.”

The lieutenant governor also said more armed teachers would help avert school massacres.

“We have to arm our teachers,” he said. “If another person has a gun, the best way to stop that person is with another person with a gun. But an even better way is four people with a gun to stop that person.”

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