Saugus High School Shooting Suspect Is Boy Scout, Honors Student — (The Montrose-La Crescenta Patch)

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The Montrose-La Crescenta Patch

By Paige Austin, Patch Staff

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The portrait emerging of the teen who allegedly shot five classmates on his 16th birthday seemingly clashes with that of a stone-cold killer

SANTA CLARITA, CA — “Nice,” “respectful,” “kind.” The words friends and neighbors use to describe Nathan Berhow, the alleged 16-year-old shooter accused of killing two classmates and wounding three others at Santa Clarita’s Saugus High School Thursday, clash jarringly with his actions. According to police, the killer turned 16 Thursday morning, donned black clothes, pulled a semi-automatic handgun from his backpack and took aim, randomly killing classmates in a 16-second attack that forever changed Santa Clarita.

Now as the community grieves, understanding promises to be elusive.

Investigators say that there is little evidence to suggest the teen had been radicalized or that he’d been subjected to bullying. He doesn’t appear to fit the profile of a deranged loner. He was a Boy Scout, honors student, and a cross-country runner. He had a girlfriend, according to multiple reports. Investigators found no manifesto, suicide note or other writings describing any potential motive when they removed a trove of guns from the shooter’s home.

But security footage of the school shooting reportedly shows someone different, a person seen time again in this era of mass murder: a stone-faced killer bent on destruction.

Kent Wegener said detectives reviewed security video, and the shooting appeared to be completely random, with the gunman firing at anyone in his vicinity. In just 16 seconds, he struck five classmates, then used his last bullet on himself. A 16-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy died from their injuries soon after. Berhow is reportedly in critical condition.

“Today was his 16th birthday,” Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva told CBS2 Thursday. “(He) was involved in student athletics, so doesn’t fit the bill of someone you would associate with this type of event.”

Friends and neighbors of the Saugus High School shooting suspect described him as a quiet and kind person, not someone they would not have expected to open fire on classmates.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has not named Berhow as the shooter, but multiple broadcast reports have. Investigators from the FBI and ATF swarmed his home Thursday.

“He was respectful, how he talked about others,” neighbor Jared Axen told KTLA5. “It could be just the relationship that he and I had together, but, you know, I just wish he was willing to say that he needed some help.”

Axen said Berhow’s father died about two years ago and it was his understanding Nathan found his father’s body inside the family’s home. According to Axen, the teen struggled with his father’s death. Axen told CBS the teen’s father was a hunter and an alcoholic who was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of attempted battery on his wife.

Despite the family’s hardships, Axen said he was surprised that the boy turned to violence.

“He always seemed to have people around him in his life who really loved him,” Axen told CBS. “I think he forgot that.”

Berhow’s mother, Mami Mastuura, told The Daily Mail “I don’t even know what to do right now, I am just praying for my son’s life.”

A cross-country teammate of Berhow’s was shocked he could be capable of such a violent act.

“He was such the nicest person… I don’t know why he would ever do this, especially on his birthday,” the teammate told Fox11.

A student named Maxwell told Fox11 that in the days leading up to the shooting Berhow had been acting differently.

“As far as I could tell from the recent days that I’ve seen him, he was looking kind of down and I guess just kind of depressed about something,” Maxwell said. “I didn’t really ask him what it was that he was depressed about, but from what I could tell he was different. He wasn’t acting like himself.”

Aidan Soto, a fellow Boy Scout and track athlete, told the Los Angeles Times Berhow was the last person he’d imagine would do something so horrible.

“I’m bewildered and looking for answers — the question as to why all this would happen,” Soto told the newspaper. “So many questions no one has the answers to.”

City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.