Crisis prompts ‘coordinated effort’

Anxious parents are directed to the waiting area at Central Park in Saugus to pick up their children after a shooting incident at Saugus High School on Thursday, November 14, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal
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The shooting at Saugus High School continued to resonate throughout the Santa Clarita Valley Friday, in the wake of three students shot and killed and three left wounded.

At Friday’s news conference in front of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, the second day of debriefings after the shooting early Thursday morning, deputies sworn to serve and protect the community shared their stories.

They live here, they work here, their kids go to school here.

Detective Dan Finn of the Sheriff’s Station’s Career Offenders, Robbery, Burglary Assault, or COBRA, team was on his way to work Thursday morning and was dropping his girlfriend’s son off at Saugus, and suddenly saw kids running.

“It was 7:35-ish,” Finn said, as the time he arrived at the school. 

“I saw several hundred students running off campus. I drove onto the school circle, contacted one of the students, asked him what was going on, and he said there were gunshots on campus,” Finn said.

“I notified the Sheriff’s Station,” he said. “I started to enter the campus, at which time I joined by an off-duty police officer.”

“There were no students. The vast majority had exited the campus. I safely secured the building, I came around the admin building into the quad area, and saw three of the victims lying on the ground.

“I wasn’t aware of who the shooter was at that time,” Finn said. “Myself and the off-duty officer, an Inglewood officer, and an additional off-duty LAPD officer and a school administrator … began to give medical aid to all three of the victims until the (Los Angeles County) Fire Department arrived,” he said.

“My main concern then was securing the scene, treating the victims and trying to make sure there wasn’t any additional shooter on campus,” Finn said.

Finn, who said he once worked as a school resource deputy at Valencia High School, said he remembered schools kept a medical aid bag.

“I retrieved the medical aid bags from the office, brought them out and we started assessing their wounds and trying to pack the wounds and stabilize them.”

Finn said the Sheriff’s Department school resource deputy for Saugus High is Deputy James Callaghan, who arrived at the school “within minutes” of Finn’s arrival.

“I immediately entered the school and saw three gunshot victims on the ground,” Callaghan said, describing the victims as within a few feet of each other. 

“It was a coordinated effort with everyone on scene — Detective Finn, the other two off-duty officers and school staff.  We did CPR and tried to make sure they that we didn’t have an active shooter on campus,” he said.

When asked by a reporter if he recognized any of the victims, Callaghan said “Yes.”

He was then asked if that was tough.

“Very tough, very tough,” he said.

“Tough,” he explained, to see the students he saw each day suddenly lifeless on the ground.

“When you’re a school resource deputy, you take a lot of pride in keeping your kids secure,” he said. “You never think a tragic thing like this is going to happen.

“I’m just glad the department provided a lot of good training,” he said. “The response was unbelievable.

“I did not know the shooter,” he said. “I know the other two ran into classrooms, I don’t know where the third one went.

“We had just done a training session, and I think the kids did a great job,” he said.

On Friday evening, it was announced that a third student, the shooter, died as a result of Thursday’s incident.

Nathaniel Berhow, a 16-year-old Saugus High junior, died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

[email protected] 661-287-5527 On Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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