SANTA CLARITA (AP/KTLA) – Thousands of community members gathered Sunday at a vigil to honor the two students who died and support those who lived through a shooting at the hands of a classmate at Saugus High School as investigators try to determine what prompted the deadly attack that left three other teens wounded.
Family members shared memories of the victims and friends told stories of good times shared together during the ceremony at Central Park in Santa Clarita.
The dead were identified as 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell.
A wounded 14-year-old girl was released from the hospital late Friday. A 15-year-old girl remained hospitalized in good condition. A 14-year-old boy was treated and released Thursday.
Muehlberger’s older brother, Riley Muehlberger, desribed his sister as “gorgeous, radiant, angelic, caring, intelligent and energetic.”
“I watched you grow more and more every day,” he said through tears.
“My favorite about you ,Gracie, was how funny you were. You were always able to put a smile on my face, and that’s one of the things I’ll miss the most,” the brother said. “Thank you for being the best sister ever. I wouldn’t want anyone else. Until I see you again, I love you, Gracie.”
Andrew Gardetto, who was wounded in the leg during the attack, attended the vigil with the aid of crutches. He was a member of the school’s JROTX, along with Blackwell.
“The school shooter took away one of my friends. He injured me, he injured many people and he traumatized the entire school and community,” Gardetto said.
“It’s been a tiring few days,” he said. “I”m still in pain.”
In addition to recovering from a gunshot wound, Gardetto said he is also struggling with the psychological trauma associated with the mass shooting.
Despite the fact that police said the attack unfolded in a matter of 16 second, Gardetto said he wishes he could have done more to help.
“I feel a lot of guilt, because I could have helped Dominic and everyone else there. But I chose to run. I feel really guilty for that,” he said.
Gardetto said he’s been trying to focus on the positive. and was grateful for the outpouring of community support in the wake of the tragedy.
“I want to thank the entire community. I want to thank the Young Marines behind me. I want to thank the entire Young Marine program for supporting me and I want to thank everyone in this community for the support you’ve given us and all the injured,” he said. “I have strong people around me and they help keep me strong.”
Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean said the past days have been marked by heartbreak and sorrow. But it has also been marked by strength.
“Saugus, you have a fabulous school with fabulous spirit and pride, and I know that you will not let anything take that away from you. We are all with you,” McLean said. “Tonight, and every single day, we are Saugus strong.”
Saugus High School will remain closed until Dec. 2, but counselors will be available to help students cope with their grief, district officials said.
Detectives were searching for a motive for the killings carried out by Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow on Thursday, his 16th birthday. The teen pulled a .45-caliber handgun from his backpack and shot five students at random before shooting himself in the head. He died the next day.
Berhow had shown no signs of violence and didn’t appear to be linked to any ideology, authorities said.
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 news conference Friday.
“We did not find any manifesto, any diary that spelled it out, any suicide note or any writings,” he said.
Additional law enforcement will be posted Monday at schools in the Santa Clarita area.
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