Fear, anger hit students as they return to school

Wednesday, March 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SANTEE, Calif. (AP) _ Inside the campus of Santana High School, few signs remain of the deadly gunfire that erupted two days ago.

Bullet holes that riddled a bathroom where the massacre began have been patched and covered with paint, and the floors have been scrubbed of all traces of blood.

But as the school's more than 1,900 students prepared to return Wednesday, the sound and sight of a fellow student gunning down his classmates remained all too vivid.

The school reopens the same day accused gunman Charles Andrew Williams, 15, was to be arraigned as an adult on charges that include murder. Two students died in Monday's attack and 13 people were injured.

Nicole LaPage and Carolyn Baza got as far as the school entrance Tuesday night and stopped. The memory was still too fresh to go in, they said.

``I walk that way everyday to my first class,'' said LaPage, 18, as she described how she and Baza heard the popping of the shooter's gun and then dove for cover in a classroom.

``At the beginning of the hall, we're walking. At the end of the hall, he's shooting. Then it hit me, 'Oh my God, this is for real,''' she said.

On the cement path, Randy Gordon, 17, lay motionless. Bryan Zuckor, 14, was also killed.

In interviews with San Diego County sheriff's investigators, Williams seemed angry and expressed no remorse for the shootings, said Lt. Jerry Lewis. But investigators said they couldn't pinpoint who or what he was mad at.

``We don't know if he was mad at the school, mad at students, mad at life, mad at home,'' Lewis said. ``He was an angry young man.''

The teen-ager allegedly opened fire Monday morning, shooting indiscriminately at the passing students in an open yard.

``The information we have from the evidence and the witnesses (is) the suspect was firing randomly at anybody who was going by,'' Lewis said.

Barry Gibson, 18, who was released from a hospital Tuesday with a bullet wound to the leg, told reporters he heard shooting coming from inside a nearby bathroom.

``I am pretty sure everyone, including myself, thought they were firecrackers,'' he said.

Williams had lived with his father in an apartment near Santana High School since moving from Maryland about a year ago. Classmates and friends said he was a skater who was sometimes picked on because of his small build.

According to authorities, Wiliams used a .22-caliber long rifle revolver that belonged to his father, who told investigators it was kept in a locked cabinet. When Williams surrendered, the gun was fully loaded with eight rounds, its hammer cocked, investigators said. They said he came to school with as many as 40 rounds.

The FBI, which has analyzed 18 school shootings, has developed guidelines that could help authorities assess whether someone is capable of a threat. But the agency found there's no real profile of characteristics that explains such behavior, spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said.

``We've seen these kids come from very good homes where they have two loving parents,'' Caldwell said. ``There really is no menu for this.''

In a brief statement issued Tuesday, Williams' father, Charles, a lab technician at Naval Medical Center San Diego, indicated he was as stunned as everyone else.

``We understand that the general public wants answers to how and why a thing like this could have happened at the hands of what everyone reports to be a well-mannered, good kid,'' he said. ``The family, too, joins the public in this need for answers.''

Williams himself had gone to the school fearing for his son's safety after he heard about the shooting, said Toni Blake, a family spokeswoman. It was there, she said, that he learned his son was accused of the shootings.

The boy's mother, Linda Wells, tearfully expressed sorrow for the victims' families as she opened her door a crack to a television reporter at her home in North Augusta, S.C.

``My heart goes out to them. They've lost their babies, their hopes, their dreams for their futures,'' Wells told WJBF-TV in Augusta, Ga.

If there was trouble in the Williams home, it wasn't immediately apparent to neighbors. Gilbert Chavez, 21, said the boy volunteered to help him move to a nearby apartment and seemed typical.

``I just can't believe he did that,'' Chavez said. ``He was always laughing and riding his skateboard.''

Others said the boy was known to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana while hanging out at boulders near the apartment complex or a local skateboard park.

Outside the school, a makeshift memorial has piled up around the school's front sign under an arc of purple and gold balloons. Dozens of messages were written onto two white boards.

To Gordon, a 17-year-old long-distance runner who had planned to join the Navy after graduation, one student wrote: ``I will remember you always forever. I'll treasure the times we spent together growing up. There will always be a place for you in my heart.''

Another wrote to Zuckor: ``You were a great person and we will all miss you.''