I got up on the morning of Friday, May 20 and went downstairs and turned on the TV. My wife had left earlier in the morning for work and I was home with the dogs. When I turned it on, I was surprised that scheduled programming had been replaced by local news about an unfolding incident at the high school in Santa Fe, a community some twenty-three miles from me. There were reports of a shooting with possible deaths but details were sketchy. Aerial shots taken from the TV station helicopters showed ambulances and helicopters parked on the school parking lot.
I had no idea there was a Santa Fe, Texas until one May afternoon in 1994 when I stopped for supper at a Cajun restaurant just off of I-10 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I’d been to Houston many times in my job as a corporate pilot and now I was on way there to start a new life. The young waitress and I were chatting and after I told her I was on my way to Houston, she said “I’m from Santa Fe.” I thought she meant Santa Fe, New Mexico but she told me no, she meant Santa Fe, Texas and said it’s a community south of Houston. As it turned out, my new home in Clear Lake was only a few miles from Santa Fe and I’d soon meet people from there, including the president’s secretary at my new place of employment. I soon learned that Santa Fe has a large population of people of Czech ancestry. That was almost a quarter century ago. Since then I found a new wife and eventually a new home on the southwest side of Houston. My wife and I often drive through Santa Fe on our way to and from Galveston and have stopped for breakfast at the local McDonalds (the worst in the world!) and have visited the Haak Winery. We are familiar with the high school, which sits right off of Texas 6. In short, Santa Fe has become a familiar place and I was shocked to learn there was an incident at the school.
Most of the local affiliates had little real news but I found that the local FOX outlet was in contact by text message and phone with teenagers who had been at the school but had managed to leave the school grounds. Some had actually been in the classroom where the shooting took place. They said the shootings were in the back of the school building in the art department and that the shooter had used a shotgun and a pistol. They also revealed that people had been killed and wounded, at a time when ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates still had no information. When news teams started interviewing “victims,” their subjects were people who had been nowhere near the actual shootings, which caused considerable consternation among those who were. As the day drew on, more information became available and the toll of dead and wounded grew. The final toll was ten dead and thirteen wounded.
Something stood out about the Santa Fe shooting in comparison to the recent shootings that captured the attention of the nation, particularly the media – there were no “assault-style rifles” involved. Instead, the shooter, Dimitrios Pagourtzisa, 17-year old student at the school, used a common shotgun, a Remington 870 pump-action commonly known as the Wingmaster, and a .38 caliber revolver, both owned by his father. The barrel of the shotgun was allegedly sawed-off but whether it was a special version of the famous shotgun designed for military and law enforcement use has never been revealed. (The only difference between the sporting and military/law enforcement versions are semantics. Military versions have a longer magazine tube and can accommodate more shells. The sporting version holds four shells in the magazine and one in the barrel.) The shooter was reported to have worn a long overcoat, apparently a military-style duster, and combat boots. However, although the coat allowed him to conceal the shotgun, he was known to have worn similar dress on a regular basis.
Now, let me state that I grew up with firearms in the house. Some of my earliest memories are of shooting my dad’s .22. I started hunting at age nine and received my first shotgun, an Ithaca 20-gauge pump, as a present when I was eleven. I hunted with my dad’s 12-gauge automatic and single and double-barrel shotguns as well. I also hunted with his .22. I also had a Daisy pump-action BB gun and knew the difference between an air rifle and a firearm in terms of killing power. I have no problem whatsoever with children, especially teenagers, having access to firearms as long as they are experienced. Experience with firearms is common in rural areas such as that surrounding Santa Fe.
Of course, as soon as word of the shooting became public knowledge, gun control advocates began blaming the young man’s access to firearms as the cause of the shooting. However, as anyone with any knowledge of firearms knows, they are merely tools. The common axiom, “Guns don’t kill, people do” is true. But there is another factor present in the Santa Fe shooting, a factor that was also present in the Parkland, Florida shootings and in other shootings at schools, particularly high schools. There was a girl involved – and she was obviously the young man’s principal target. According to her parents, 16-year old Shana Fisher had publically embarrassed the shooter two weeks before his actions.
Just what the girl said to the boy or where or how she said it has yet to be revealed, but based on her parents’ accounts, it was in the presence of others and her words caused embarrassment so great that the girl believed he would kill her as a result. They had not been dating, as was the case in the Parkland and Great Mills, Maryland shootings. According to her parents, the boy had been pestering her for several months to go out with him but she had refused. Her mother claims that she refused because the boy had recently broke up with one of her friends and she didn’t believe she should a friend’s boyfriend. Fisher’s parents claim Pagourtzis pestered Fisher for four months before she unloaded on him, apparently in a public setting. It is possible that the story about the two teenagers is a fabrication. His closest friends said he was “shy around girls and never had a girlfriend.” However, Shana Fisher was reported to have been the first victim and Pagourtzis evidently wanted to make sure she was dead. According to reports, when he came into the classroom, he pointed the shotgun at one student, apparently Fisher, and shouted “I’m going to kill you!” At least one witness said that after he started shooting, he turned the gun on one girl who had already been shot and was lying on the floor and shot her twice more in the head. Fisher’s mother told reporters the girl’s body was so disfigured she was unrecognizable.
Much has been made of the “Born to Kill” T-shirt Pagourtzis posted an image of on his Facebook page and reportedly wore under his trench coat on the day of the shooting. Some claimed “Born to Kill” is an alt-right slogan but in fact, it’s an old term going back to World War II, at least. There was a 1947 movie called Born to Kill. The term was used frequently during the Vietnam War as soldiers and Marines wrote it on their helmets or even had it tattooed on their arms. Pagourtzis is reported to have said he wanted to be a Marine.
Pagourtzis claimed after the shooting that he had no memory of the events (which is likely true) and his lawyer claimed he had no knowledge of the situation with Fisher. Very little has appeared in the media, even the local Houston-area media, since right after the shootings and there have been no published accounts from students of the confrontation between the two teenagers. Some students did claim, however, that Pagourtzis had been bullied, by adults as well as fellow students. The school district denied bullying by coaches, as students alleged.
In regard to bullying of students who went on killing sprees, a Federal study conducted after the Columbine, Colorado shootings found that shooters had been bullied in 70% of cases. On the other hand, one “journalist” who wrote a book about the Columbine shootings claimed that bullying wasn’t a factor. However, a close friend of one of the shooters, who wrote his own book, said they were definitely bullying victims. There is no doubt that Nikolas Cruz, who carried out the Parkland shootings, had been bullied for most of his life. Cruz had also suffered a broken relationship with a girl, apparently at the girl’s mother’s insistence, shortly before he decided to carry out a Valentines Day massacre. Great Mills, Maryland High School student Austin Rollins shot his former girlfriend, Jaelynn Willey, with a Glock pistol and wounded another student then shot himself after engaging with a security officer. There was another shooting earlier this year in Italy, a small town near Dallas, involving two students who had briefly dated. It appears that boy-girl relationships are a frequent factor in high school shootings.
Needless to say, the Santa Fe shootings attracted the media as well as gun control advocates. Local Houston media lost no time in interviewing Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and police Chief Art Acevedo, even though neither has any jurisdiction in Santa Fe and Galveston County. Acevedo’s outrageous comments that students should vote for gun control advocates led to condemnation by the National Rifle Association. Acevedo, a Cuban immigrant who grew up in California, is notorious for his leftwing political views. He was on the verge of being fired from his job as police chief in leftwing Austin when he was hired by the (equally leftwing) city of Houston. Attempts by the notorious Parkland, Florida antigun students and other antigun crusaders to get involved were rebuffed by the local community. A handful of Santa Fe students spoke at a press conference organized by a Houston gun control group but it was held in West Houston, over fifty miles from Santa Fe.
Since there has been no statement from the authorities regarding Pagourtzis’ motive, I don’t know what to think, other than that the shootings seem to have somehow been the result of his insane anger at Shana Fisher.