California school shooter dies with motive a mystery

The 16-year-old who opened fire Thursday at a high school in Santa Clarita, Calif., killing two people and wounding three others, has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, authorities said.
Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow shot himself on his 16th birthday after pulling a gun from his backpack at Saugus High School, where he was a junior, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said. Berhow received treatment, but died Friday at about 3:30 p.m. local time with his mother present, according to the department.
Berhow’s motive in the attack remains unclear, sheriff’s department spokesman Edmo Luna said Friday evening, a day after Saugus High students evacuated in the first fatal shooting this academic year on U.S. school grounds. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that the gunman shot seemingly at random but appeared “very familiar with firing the weapon” and did not commit a “spur-of-the-moment act."
It was at least the seventh shooting of the school year, according to a familiar tragedy as data shows more than 230,000 children have experienced gun violence at their schools since 1999′s massacre at Columbine High.
Deputies were on the scene two minutes after a 911 call reported the Saugus High shooting at 7:38 a.m. Thursday, authorities said. They found the shooter, dressed in black, among six students with gunshot wounds in the school’s outdoor quad area. A seventh person received treatment for noncritical injuries, according to officials.

People embrace at a makeshift memorial in front of Saugus High School for victims of the Nov. 14 shooting. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The sheriff’s office has identified one of Berhow’s classmates killed Thursday as 15-year-old Gracie Muehlberger. One student hospitalized has been released, while two others are not expected to leave until this weekend.
Authorities said they found a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun on the scene and were still working to trace the gun Friday, with help from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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After more than 40 interviews and a search of his home, authorities still were in the dark, Capt. Kent Wegener of the Sheriff’s Department’s homicide unit said at a press conference.
“We did not find any manifesto, any diary that spelled it out, any suicide note or any writings,” he said.
But if the teen’s motivation was murky, his actions were planned and deliberate, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
Berhow’s mother dropped him off at Saugus High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita Thursday morning, which was his birthday. He walked alone to the center of a school open-air quad. Security camera video showed him dropping his backpack and pulling out a .45-caliber handgun. He began firing, cleared the jammed weapon and kept shooting.
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Berhow counted his rounds, Villanueva said, saving the last bullet for himself.
The dead were identified as 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell.
Bryan and Cindy Muehlberger said they shared the news of their daughter’s death with “unexplainable brokenness.” They described her as their “Cinderella, the daughter we always dreamed to have,” and said her two brothers were heartbroken.
“She will never get to drive a car, fall in love, build a career, get married, have children and do all the other things everyone takes for granted in this short thing called life,” they said in a statement.
“We miss her smile, laughter, sweet kisses, and her amazing sense of humor,” the parents said.
Dominic Blackwell was a member of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
“I’ve known him since I was five,” student Joshua Mourthi told KABC-TV. “So, he used to be my neighbor. He could make anyone smile. You could be having the worst day and he’d walk up and say, ‘Hey, how’s your day going?’ and you’d immediately start smiling.”
Two girls, ages 14 and 15, were shot in the torso and should be released from the hospital over the weekend, doctors said Friday. A 14-year-old boy was treated and released.
Berhow was a Boy Scout and had previously run track for his school.
Friends said Berhow could be introverted but he had a girlfriend and a good social network focused on his cross-country teammates.
Berhow’s father was an avid hunter who died two years ago. Police said they found several firearms at Berhow’s home and some were unregistered. The semi-automatic handgun used by the boy also was unregistered. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was working with police to determine where Berhow got the handgun.
The common image of a mass shooter is “a loner, someone who is socially awkward, doesn’t get along, some violent tendencies, dark brooding and online strange postings — stuff like that,” Villanueva said.
With this boy, investigators have found “nothing out of the ordinary. He’s a cookie-cutter kid that you could find anywhere.”
The stereotype of the loser sociopath is often inaccurate, according to the psychologist who co-wrote federal guidelines for assessing school shooting threats.
Marissa Randazzo, who has interviewed five shooters, said most of those she studied were academically successful and weren’t social outcasts.
What pushes most shooters is some kind of loss or disappointment, often recent, followed by the inability to cope with a feeling of being overwhelmed, said Randazzo, a former chief research psychologist at the U.S. Secret Service who is now CEO of a threat-assessments firm.

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