Classes Resume Following School Shooting

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Counselors will be on hand today to help students at Salvador Castro Middle School in the Westlake district cope with the trauma they may have experienced a day earlier, when a gun allegedly brought to school by a 12-year-old girl went off, possibly by accident, wounding two students, including a boy who suffered a critical head wound.

The girl who brought the weapon is in custody today at Los Angeles County's Central Juvenile Hall on suspicion of negligent discharge of a firearm, and the two 15-year-old students who suffered gunshot wounds are expected to fully recover.

Los Angeles police do not believe that the shooting was intentional, LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein said in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times./

``At this time, the information suggests that this was an isolated incident, involving the negligent discharge of a firearm, where innocent children and a staff member were unfortunately injured," the LAPD said in a statement.

The shooting occurred around 9 a.m. Thursday in a classroom at the school in the 1500 block of West Second Street, police said. Arriving officers ``located a few victims and they also located the suspect, who they took into custody without further incident,'' Los Angeles police Lt. Chris Ramirez said. ``A gun was recovered at (the) scene.''

Los Angeles School Police Department Chief Steve Zipperman said the shooting occurred inside a multi-grade classroom, but it was unclear how the weapon wound up on campus. LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos said ``it is still too early'' to understand a possible motive for the shooting or how a student obtained a weapon.

Friends of the girl were quoted in news reports as saying she repeatedly claimed she didn't mean to shoot the victims and that the gun ``went off'' when she dropped her backpack.

Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department said the most seriously injured patient was a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the head and initially listed in critical but stable condition. A 15-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound to her right wrist and was listed in fair condition.

Officials at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center said both students are expected to make full recoveries. Dr. Aaron Strumwasser, who treated the teens, said the boy who was struck in the head was ``extremely lucky.''

``The trajectory of the bullet did not hit any vital structures that were an immediate threat to life,'' Strumwasser said. ``So I think he will do fine.''

Scott said three other patients -- an 11-year-old boy, a 12-year-old girl and a 30-year-old woman -- suffered ``minor abrasions to the face area, some from glass.'' None of them were struck by gunfire.

The middle school shares a campus with Belmont High School, and both schools were placed on lockdown as police combed through Castro classrooms to ensure there was no other threat.

Zipperman said authorities' initial focus will be caring for students who may have witnessed the shooting.

``We know this is a very traumatic incident for all the children involved, particularly inside that classroom,'' he said. ``As we continue to move forward with this, I want everyone to have a clear understanding that we will attend to the needs of these students who witnessed this very carefully, with the understanding this is very traumatic.

``We have our school mental health folks who are here to support the needs of the students and we will continue to work with those students,'' he said.

After the suspect was taken into custody and the wounded students were taken to hospitals, police went room to room on the locked-down campus, leading some students out with their hands behind their backs.

``We will have counselors on site for students and staff (Friday) at Sal Castro,'' Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Shannon Haber said. ``If any of the schools in the area need counseling support we will get support right away for students or employees.''

Once the commotion died down Thursday, classes resumed at both Castro Middle School and Belmont High School, with counselors provided in classrooms, but dozens of parents gathered outside the campus when news of the shooting broke, and students were released early, about 1:30 p.m.

The district set up an information hotline for parents at (213) 241-1000.

Classes will be held as usual at the schools today.

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