'It Was Going to Happen Eventually': Santa Fe Students Feared High School Would Be Targeted

"I was thinking it was going to happen eventually. It’s been happening everywhere," student Paige Curry told reporters

Nearly three months before a 17-year-old student opened fire inside Santa Fe High School, students were terrorized by a false report of a shooting on their Texas campus.

School officials said they found no threat after responding to the high school southeast of Houston when students and teachers said they heard “popping sounds.”

Angie Martinez, the mother of a ninth grader student in the school, told media outlets Friday a student had allegedly thrown "firecrackers" in the hall, sparking a lockdown and triggering an active shooter drill.

"The first incident was a prank call, you know, but they did that as a warning the first time, supposedly,” Martinez told CNN in a phone interview Friday morning. The mother later told MSNBC in a phone interview that police were alerted to threats posted on social media by an alleged student warning of an imminent shooting at the school a day before the Feb. 28 incident. After the false alarm, the same student allegedly wrote on social media "we were just trying to see how long it would take for authorities to get to the school," Martinez said.

The incident, which happened just two weeks after the deadly Parkland school shooting in Florida, left many students at Santa Fe on edge.

On Friday, a fellow student dressed in a trench-type coat and armed with three weapons opened fire at Santa Fe High School, killing at least 10 people, police said. 

"I was thinking it was going to happen eventually. It’s been happening everywhere," student Paige Curry told reporters.

Curry was in the school's theater room when she heard "four or five" popping sounds in the hallway outside the door. She said she didn’t know at first what they were, and then she heard screaming.

"I got up and ran and we hid backstage inside the workshop,” she told NBC affiliate KPRC. "I was really, really scared and struggling to keep calm…there was a girl there having a very loud panic attack." 

She said the school's fire alarm sounded, but they stayed gathered in the back room. And then it was "quite for a really long time and nothing happened." About 30 minutes later, law enforcement officials found them and escorted them outside the building. 

Other students reported hearing gunshots when they were evacuating the school after the fire alarm went off. Martinez's 14-year-old daughter, Angelica Martinez, told MSNBC she assumed it was a just a fire drill and filed out of her classroom with fellow students as they had previously practiced.

"We were all standing [outside], but not even five minutes later, we started hearing gunshots," she said. "And then everybody starts running, but like the teachers are telling us to stay put, but we're all just running away."

Student Dakota Shrader told reporters she was in the history hallway when the fire alarm went off and students started leaving their classrooms.   

"Then the next thing you know we hear three gunshots, a lot of explosions, and all the teachers are telling us to 'run, run, go, run!' Me and my friend Ryan Calvert ran to the forest so we could get shelter. And that is when I called my mom," Shrader said through tears. 

She told KPRC she's feared a shooting at the school since the alleged prank threat in February and no longer feels safe in Santa Fe.

Law enforcement sources tell NBC News that shooter has been identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis. The 17-year-old student is accused of killing nine students and one teacher, and injuring 10 others. Another student was detained as a person of interest and is being questioned.

Officials have not drawn any connections between the February incident and Friday's shooting. It was not clear if the suspected shooter was behind the previous threats of a school shooting posted on social media. 

The shooting was all but certain to re-ignite the national debate over gun regulations. In the aftermath of the Feb. 14 attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, survivors organized protests in a grass-roots movement and petitioned city councils and state lawmakers. 

Within weeks, Florida lawmakers adopted changes, including new weapons restrictions. Around the country a slew of gun control measures have been adopted at the local and state level, while the private sector has moved to make guns less available, and some proposals to expand gun rights have been stalled.

Many of the Parkland activists on Friday expressed solidarity with the victims in Texas and renewed calls for gun control

Calls for tighter gun controls have barely registered in gun-loving Texas — at least to this point.

Texas has some of the country's most permissive gun laws and recently hosted the National Rifle Association's annual conference earlier this month. In the run-up to Texas' march primaries, gun control was not a main issue with candidates of either party. Republicans did not soften their views on guns, and most Democrats campaigned on a range of issues instead of zeroing in on gun violence.

One exception is Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who is challenging Sen. Ted Cruz for re-election. O'Rourke supports a ban on assault rifles and backs calls for universal background checks. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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