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Afp

Deadly Texas school shooting gunman 'confused,' his lawyers say

By AFP
media Jai Gillard, a freshman who was in the class where the mass shooting started, looks at a cross for Sabika Sheikh before signing it at a memorial for the victims of the Santa Fe High School shooting on May 21, 2018 AFP

The gunman accused of killing 10 people and wounding 13 at a Texas high school last week was in a state of mental confusion, his attorneys said Monday, as schools beefed up security for students returning to classrooms.

At least two of those wounded in Friday's mass shooting at Santa Fe High School were still hospitalized, including school police officer John Barnes, who remained in critical condition, said the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old student at the school, faces charges of capital murder and aggravated assault of a public servant. He is alleged to have used his father's legally owned shotgun and revolver in the rampage.

Pagourtzis's attorneys told reporters Monday that their client was "in a state."

"I think that there is definitely something going on in terms of mental health history," attorney Nicholas Poehl told NBC News.

"I still think he's very confused about the incident."

A statewide moment of silence was held in the morning to remember the eight students and two teachers killed. Mourners gathered at white wooden crosses planted in front of the school, with a victim's name and a red heart on each cross.

Recalling the attack on ABC television's "Good Morning America," student Trenton Beazely said the shooter "was playing music, making jokes, had slogans and rhymes he kept saying."

"Every time he'd kill someone he'd say, 'another one bites the dust.'"

- Tightened security -

Already frayed nerves were rattled in neighboring communities where three schools reported gun threats.

One student brought an unloaded gun to campus, while at another school a student brought a gun apparently to harm himself, and a student texted someone else asking them to bring a gun at a third school, according to local media.

All three were arrested.

Schools in Santa Fe were closed through Tuesday and a crisis hotline was set up for traumatized students and parents.

Several Texas school administrators announced new safety measures as nervous parents sent children back to school in neighboring communities.

"We will be increasing police visibility at each school through the remainder of the school year," Greg Smith, the superintendent of schools at Clear Creek, said in a letter.

Another school banned backpacks to prevent hidden weapons from slipping through, while others changed dress codes to forbid heavy clothing such as the trench coat Pagourtzis was said to be wearing to conceal his weapons.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, officially announced a series of town hall meetings to discuss schools safety. They will be held at the state capital starting Tuesday.

Texas, a conservative stronghold, has some of the most permissive firearm laws in the United States, and new gun restrictions are unlikely.

Abbott has focused on mental health issues and arming school personnel.

The Democratic mayor of Houston, while advocating for metal detectors at all schools, also called for tougher gun laws.

"There's nothing wrong with reasonable, pragmatic (gun) restrictions," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a news conference.

 
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