A student at Taft High School chokes up with tears as she remembers her 16-year-old classmate open fire in a classroom this week. Police are investigating reports that the boy had compiled a "hit list" that led to him being suspended from school last year. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Taft for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2013.
A day after a shooting in a rural community 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles riveted the nation still in shock after the massacre in Newtown, Conn., an arrest was made Friday and a victim remained in critical condition.
The Thursday morning shooting at Taft Union High School in the small city of Taft, in the southwest corner of California's Central Valley, ended quickly after the intervention of a teacher and campus supervisor who convinced the unnamed gunman to surrender.
The shooter, identified only as a 16-year-old male student, was booked into Juvenile Hall by the Kern County Sheriff's Department on two counts of attempted murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon.
The boy who was seriously wounded by the gunman's initial blast remained hospitalized and is expected to survive.
Many students described the shooter as a loner who was called names.
Police were investigating reports that the boy had compiled a "hit list" that led to him being suspended from school last year, said Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt.
School officials have declined to comment about the boy's disciplinary record.
Students said they felt the school and Taft were permanently altered by the incident.
"I think we'll try to make it as normal as can be, but … I think it has changed our town completely, forever," Mitchell Emberson said.
Bryson Martin, another student, said returning to school would present challenges.
"I'm never going to be able to walk in there the same way," Martin said.
Police were trying to piece together what led to the shooting. Authorities kept the school Friday closed but allowed students to return to retrieve backpacks and other items left behind.
Some students spoke to media waiting near campus.
"I was wondering why he did it," said student Jacqueline Summers tearfully. "He just had that look like, 'I didn't care who it was.'"
But authorities said the shooter did care whom he shot and targeted two specific students, including the boy who was wounded. The shooter had also fired a second time at another boy, but missed.
A student who was in the science classroom told the Associated Press that the shooter said, "Not you" to her, then "All I want is Jacob."
That boy, Jacob, apologized to the shooter for bullying him, Morgan Alldredge told the AP.
Seeing the boy's emotion seemed to change everything for the gunman, Alldredge said. His shoulders "sort of slumped" and he began listening to the teacher, Ryan Heber, who was telling him to put down the gun, she said.
When he did, Kim Fields, a school official who hurried to the scene when gunshots were reported, grabbed the teen in a bear hug and sat him on the ground, Alldredge said.
Heber and Fields were praised as heroes in Taft, a city of about 9,600 that is surrounded by farm fields and oil wells.