Gunman in US school shooting dies as police hunt motive

Published November 16, 2019, 12:20 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Agence France-Presse

The teenager who gunned down classmates at a California high school before shooting himself died Friday, leaving detectives baffled over the motive of a Boy Scout with no obvious alarm bells in his background.

Saugus High School remains closed a day after the shooting (AFP / Frederic J. BROWN / MANILA BULLETIN)
Saugus High School remains closed a day after the shooting (AFP / Frederic J. BROWN / MANILA BULLETIN)

Nathaniel Berhow died in a hospital one day after shooting himself in the head at the end of a 16th birthday rampage that left two fellow students dead.

Berhow had been in critical condition since police officers storming the campus found him lying among the wounded.

The Los Angeles sheriff’s department confirmed Berhow died shortly after 3:30 pm (2330 GMT) on Friday.

The puzzle of what led him to open fire at Saugus High School, a short commute from Los Angeles, deepened as a picture emerged of a quiet yet sociable teen who was familiar with guns but had no history of troubled behavior.

“We know it was a planned attack, it was deliberate… The motive? We don’t have it yet,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told a news conference.

The victims — a boy and a girl died while another three students were wounded — appeared to have been chosen at random, he said.

“There’s no relationships that we can tell (between) the suspect and the victims,” Villanueva added, scotching rumors that an ex-girlfriend had been his target.

There was also no history of the teen being bullied.

The FBI earlier said there is no evidence that the suspect had any ideological motives or acted on behalf of any organization. No manifesto or suicide note has been found.

Deepening the riddle, Berhow’s late father had owned six registered guns — but none of them matched the .45 caliber semiautomatic the suspect used.

His proficiency with the weapon during his short, deadly ambush suggested he had been firing guns for some time.

“In 16 seconds he cleared a malfunction and was able to shoot five people and himself, so he seemed very familiar with firing the weapon,” said Villanueva.