A teenage boy gunned down fellow students at a California high school on his 16th birthday Thursday, killing two and wounding another three before turning the pistol on himself.
The gunman was taken into custody in “grave” condition, police said, as officers stormed Saugus High School in Santa Clarita -- the latest in a relentless cycle of classroom shootings in the United States that have left around 300 youngsters dead over two decades.
The chilling scene played out even as lawmakers in Washington were debating the latest attempt at gun control legislation that has stalled in Congress for months.
Terrified students described barricading themselves into classrooms while others fled as word rapidly spread of the unidentified Asian boy opening fire with a .45 caliber semiautomatic.
“Detectives reviewed the video at the scene, which clearly show the subject in the quad withdraw a handgun from his backpack, shoot and wound five people, and then shoot himself in the head,” homicide captain Kent Wegener told a news conference.
The teen was found among the wounded by first responders, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
No motive has yet been established, but a message reading “Saugus, have fun at school tomorrow” had been posted on “what we believe to be the subject’s Instagram account,” Wegener confirmed.
It was removed by another person following the incident, he added.
The FBI said there was no sign of an ideological motive, or any co-conspirators.
The dead were a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. The other three wounded -- one boy and two girls -- were aged between 14 and 15.
The shooting at the school of 2,300 students was first reported shortly after 7:30 am (1530 GMT).
The school -- 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Los Angeles -- was locked down, and witness descriptions and surveillance footage identified the suspect within an hour of the shooting.
Officers went to his home and his mother and girlfriend were at a local police station speaking with detectives.
The incident is the latest of more than 40 shootings at US schools since as recently as May 2018, when a 17-year-old killed 10 people, eight of them students, in Santa Fe, Texas.
There is roughly one school shooting a week in the United States, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.
President Donald Trump tweeted that his staff “continue to monitor the terrible events,” adding his “deepest condolences to the families and friends of those tragically lost.”
The perennial hot-button issue of arms control threatens to spill into next year’s election.