Keegan Burns, 16, reunites with her parents Jim and Mirasol in Central Park following a shooting that injured several people at Saugus High School, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP)
A Californian teenager killed two of his fellow high school students and wounded three others, before shooting himself, on his 16th birthday.
The gunman survived the self-inflicted gunshot to the head and is in a grave condition, as investigators search for what led to the rampage at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 65 km north of Los Angeles.
Saugus now joins the list of US schools remembered as sites of gun tragedies, including Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Columbine High School in Colorado, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida.
"How do we come out of tragedy? We need to say 'No more!' This is a tragic event. It happens too frequently," said Captain Robert Lewis of Santa Clarita Valley sheriff's station, at a sombre news conference.
The killer remains unidentified. Police have described him as Asian, and say he acted alone. They searched his family home and found no further danger.
The two students killed were a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. Two other girls, aged 14 and 15, were wounded, as was a 14-year old boy, Captain Kent Wegener of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department told a news conference.
Bernadette Song Cuan shows text messages she received from her son Karl while he was on lockdown during a school shooting at Saugus High School on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo by Christian Monterrosa)
"Video clearly shows the subject in the quad, withdraw a gun from his backpack, shoot and wound five people and then shoot himself," Wegener said.
The incident marked yet another mass shooting in the United States in recent years, intensifying the debate about gun control and the constitutional right for citizens to keep and bear arms.
This is at least the 85th incident of gunfire on school grounds this year, according to Everytown, an advocacy group for stricter gun laws.
Sean Murillo, 17, a football player at Saugus High School, said he was walking toward his coach's office when he heard shots about 3 metres away and ducked into a classroom and waited.
Murillo later met his mother at a designated point for parents and students to reunite at Santa Clarita's Central Park.
"There's no feeling of safety until he's in your arms," said his mother, Mercedes Rodriguez.
Taylor Hardges reported seeing people running in the hallways shouting "Run!" She raced into a classroom, where a teacher barricaded the room.
"We've had drills. It doesn't prepare you for the real thing," she said after reuniting with her father at Central Park.
Her father, Terrence Hardges, said Taylor texted him from inside the classroom. He said he was casually scrolling through his texts when he saw it and it made his heart race.
"She said 'I love you. I'm pinned in a room. We're locked in,'" Terrence Hardges said.
"Speechless about the shooting in Southern California," tweeted Cameron Kasky, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, who was one of the students who organised rallies and lobbying efforts in Florida's capital Tallahassee and Washington following the shooting.
"Sending love and strength to the whole community," Kasky added.
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