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One killed, 14 wounded in shooting rampage at Santee high school

March 05, 2001

SANTEE (AP) — A student opened fire at Santana High School today, smiling as he shot 15 people, killing one, in a rampage that sent students running to nearby homes and a shopping center.

Student John Schardt, 17, said, ‘‘I looked at the kid, and he was smiling and shooting his weapon.'' Schardt was in a nearby classroom when the shooting started about 9:20 a.m. in a boys' rest room at the suburban school.

‘‘It was total chaos, people were trying to take cover,'' Schardt said.

A former Imperial Valley educator and his sister-in-law, both who teach at the school, were not injured in the incident, his wife said.

Margaret Silva-Chairez, a former Brawley resident, worried about the safety of her husband, Elias, and her sister Susan Silva as she tried to reach them at the school.

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"It was just kind of scary," Chairez said after confirming the two were unharmed.

Sheriff's Lt. Glenn Revel said one of those wounded was a campus supervisor.

A male student was in custody, suspected of the shooting, said sheriff's spokesman Ron Reina.

Elias Chairez is a Spanish teacher at the school and formerly taught at Imperial and Calexico high schools. The Chairezes moved to Santee more than two years ago.

The line to the school was busy and Margaret Chairez received no answer when she dialed her husband's direct line.

She then called her sister Susan Silva, a math teacher at the school, on her cellular phone. Silva was unharmed. Elias Chairez called his wife shortly thereafter to say he, too, was uninjured.

"You wonder, ‘Gosh, it could have been him,' " Margaret said.

Students were escorted to a nearby shopping center, where they filled a parking lot and milled anxiously while parents arrived and paramedics took away the injured. The school is about 10 miles northeast of San Diego.

Student Alicia Zimmer saw a boy lying face down on the floor, a girl with blood on her arm and another with blood on her hands, she told KGTV.

She said she heard shots but didn't see a shooter. ‘‘They sounded more like a capgun,'' she said of the noise.

Several students cried as they left the school.

Santana High School opened its doors to students for the first time on Sept. 20, 1965. It serves more that 1,900 students in grades nine through twelve.

(Staff Writer Kelly Grant contributed to this report.)

AP-WS-03-05-01 1349EST

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