Gunfire erupts at CA school

BY PJ HELLER | El Cajon, CA | March 23, 2001

For the second time in less than three weeks, gunfire erupted at a San Diego- area high school, leaving five people wounded. The alleged shooter, an 18-year-old student, was shot and wounded by police.

"It's sick," said a police officer of the latest shooting at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, just east of San Diego. Others expressed disbelief upon hearing that another high school had been the scene of a shooting.

Less than three weeks ago, a student at Santana High School in Santee -- just a few miles away -- allegedly opened fire on classmates there, killing two and wounding 13. Both schools are in the same Grossmont Union High School District.

Crisis counselors were on the scene shortly after the mid-afternoon shooting at Granite Hills, a school with an enrollment of about 2,900students. Students were visibly upset, crying, shaking, and holding on to each other for support after being led out of their classrooms by police.

Classes at the school were canceled until Monday. Counseling sessions were being held Friday for students and parents at the Boys & Girls Club in ElCajon. Several churches in the area opened their doors Thursday night to help students, parents, and community members cope with the latest incident. "These poor kids," said Kellie Moore, youth director at St. John's Lutheran Church. "They're trying to understand so they can cope."

Police said the suspect, identified as Jason Hoffman, gave no reason for opening fire at the school where he was a student. He was armed with a shotgun and a handgun, police said.

Two teachers and three students were wounded when hit by shotgun pellets. Hoffman was shot and wounded by a campus police officer in what was described as a brief running gun battle on the campus. None of the wounds were life-threatening. The most serious wounds were to a 15-year-old male student who was hospitalized and was initially reported in serious but stable condition with buckshot wounds to the arm, head, and chest. Several other people were reported injured when they fell or were hit by flying glass. One parent suffered chest pains while rushing to the school.

Authorities searched the campus for a second gunman but later said there appeared to be only one shooter. Students were evacuated by police classroom by classroom to an area across the street from the school, where they were reunited with their frantic parents. Other nearby schools went into a lockdown mode and kept students inside for safety.

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