Students Hid Under Tables, Blocked Doors With Desks at First Sounds of Gunfire

Students in a math classroom barricaded the door with desks and armed themselves with scissors during a terrifying morning at Saugus High School

What to Know

  • Two students were killed by a classmate who pulled a gun from his backpack and opened fire at Saugus High School
  • Students in a math class pushed desks up against the door and gathered near the back of the darkened room
  • Students and family members reunited, some in tearful embraces, at a park later Thursday

Under a table in the nurse's office. A stranger's home across the street from campus. The back of a math classroom with the lights off.

Terrified students took cover and found shelter wherever they could when a classmate opened fire Thursday morning at their high school campus north of Los Angeles. The shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita left two victims dead and three other victims hospitalized.

Student Sharon Orelana Cordova said she ducked under a table in a nurse's office until officers came to get her. Aerial video showed lines of students escorted from the building by deputies as the search continued for the shooter. 

"When I got out I saw this person lying on the ground with blood all over," Sharon said. 

Freshman Rosie Rodriguez was heading to the library when she heard what sounded like balloons popping. She started running when she and other students realized the popping sounds were gunfire.

Rosie, carrying a backpack full of books, ran across the street to a stranger's home, where a resident sheltered her and about 10 other students, she said.

"I just heard a lot of kids crying," Rosie said. "We were scared."

School Shooting Incidents Since 2013 defines the incidents mapped below as any time a firearm discharges a live round inside or into a school building or on or onto a school campus or grounds, as documented by the press and, when necessary, confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement or school officials. Incidents in which guns were brought into schools but not discharged are not included.

Source:, NBC Staff Reports
Last updated on Nov. 14, 2019

The students were at the home for about an hour as deputies searched the campus and a nearby neighborhood for the shooter, later identified as a 16-year-old student at the school. They texted families and friends, wondering whether everyone was ok.

On a normal day, Rosie said Saugus High School felt safe.

"We never really thought this would happen in our school," she said.

Ellie Pearlman was in her first period math class when another student sprinted into the classroom.

"He just said, 'Gunshots,'" Ellie said. "We all jumped up, ushered everybody in, hid in the back, lights off, barricaded with desks."

Students huddled in the classroom, contacting parents and friends on phones.

"It almost still hasn't hit," Ellie said. "It's your high school, and it's not hitting yet."

Students and teachers used desks to block the door. Some armed themselves with scissors.

"I just figured it was another threat," said student Ember Miller. "A lot of people got up and they were barricading the doors.

"I should not have to go to school and fear for my life."

Classmate Jessica Nielson, was in a first period Humanities class.

"I looked out the window and there were waves of kids running past," she said.

She took cover in an area of the campus called the core, a central indoor area that can be accessed from classrooms. Students stayed in the area during the lockdown and shooter search.

Sixteen-year-old Shauna Orandi was in her Spanish class, finishing some homework when she heard four gunshots. Initially, she figured they were from instruments in a band class.

Then, a student burst into the room saying he'd seen the gunman, leaving the classmates in stunned into silence.

"My worst nightmare actually came true," she said later at a nearby park where she met her father. "This is it. I'm gonna die."

Yellow crime scene tape surrounded an outdoor area at the center of campus where the gunman opened fire. The gunman shot himself in the head after shooting five other students, according to the sheriff's department.

Aerial video showed students with hands raised being escorted by deputies from the school of about 2,300 students. They were taken to school buses with armed deputies on board.

Parents desperate to see their children arrived at a park where families were reunited. Many were in tears, greeting students with a heartfelt embrace.

"I don't want to be that overly loving mother, but I just reached out and grabbed him and started crying," one mother said. 

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Ember Miller's name.

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