On Friday, a little over 24 hours after a gunman had walked onto the Saugus High School campus and opened fire, news vans, memorials and supportive banners lined the sidewalks in front of Saugus High.
Among the mourners were the Talukder family, walking up and down the street, past the school.
Raeem Talukder, 16, a Saugus High student, was on campus in the quad Thursday morning when Nathaniel Berhow walked in and opened fire, killing three, including himself, and wounding three others. Talukder was talking about “Dungeons and Dragons” with his friend at one of the tables nearby when it happened. Once they heard the second gunshot, because the first sounded like someone stomping a milk carton, they were panicked.
“I could smell the gunpowder,” Talukder said, as he stood alongside his father and brother in front of the school at noon on Friday. “I turned around and saw one person running away … Everyone else stood frozen. I look again, and I saw one face and he had sunglasses on. And one handgun I saw him have, and I was like, ‘I got to run, I have to run.’”
Talukder left his backpack, his books, “Dungeons and Dragons” gear and even his phone right at the table where he first sat when he heard the gunshots. But he wasn’t near campus Friday to collect his personal belongings.
His dad, Rafi Talukdar, had his arm wrapped around his son, comforting him as he brought his son back to his high school. He slowly walked him in front of the school, back and forth a few times, stopping to talk or hug every now and then.
“It’s so the fear goes away,” his father, Rafi, said. “Not coming back to school is not an option.”
As the community remains on edge following the shooting deaths of three students, including the shooter, and the wounding of three others at Saugus High School Thursday, other districts and Santa Clarita Valley are also feeling the ripple effects of the tragedy.
Following the Saugus High shooting, a handful of schools in the Hart District had reports circulating about possible threats against them. Castaic Union School District officials experienced their own threat, which was deemed not credible by law enforcement agencies.
“It was not credible in the end,” said CUSD Superintendent Steve Doyle over a phone call Friday. “It was a couple of students, from what I was told. They were upset they had to go to school and the Hart kids didn’t.”
In a statement released to the CUSD community Friday, the district said the threat had alleged that groups of shooters were coming to Castaic Elementary and Castaic Middle School. The information was handed over to law enforcement.
Doyle said the information was shared over a social media platform.
“I don’t understand that,” said Doyle, speaking to why someone would make a “joke” about a school threat given the current circumstances in the Santa Clarita Valley. “It’s also super frustrating because it takes a lot of resources.”
In light of both the Saugus shooting and the threat received, the Sheriff’s Department increased its law enforcement presence at all CUSD campuses Friday.
“This is to reassure our students and staff that they are safe at school,” read the release sent to parents. “The safety of our students is our highest priority.”
Law enforcement officials said CUSD would not be alone in having increased security following Thursday’s events. And it would Friday would not be the only day with more law enforcement vehicles out on roads and deputies walking more campuses.
Shirley Miller, of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, said Thursday there would be an increased law enforcement presence on at both the schools and in public next week in order to ensure ease of mind with residents and students.
And as of the publication of this article, while law enforcement and other school districts attempt to move forward, so does the Hart District. However, there is still uncertainty on whether or not the schools, especially Saugus, which were all closed Friday, would reopen come Monday.
“It’s a difficult, difficult time and we’re trying to work through a lot of detailed information and trying to make sure that we’re going to make the right decision for a lot of people that are affected by this,” said Dave Caldwell, a spokesman for the Hart District.