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Special Event

Authorities in El Cajon, California Hold a News Conference on the Shooting at Granite Hills High School

Aired March 23, 2001 - 2:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A news conference is just getting under way in El Cajon, California, site of yesterday's school shooting at the Granite City High School. The police chief James Davis is addressing reporters.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CHIEF JAMES DAVIS, EL CAJON, CALIFORNIA POLICE: ... driveway. He left his truck armed with a 12 gauge shotgun and a .22 caliber semiautomatic pistol. When Hoffman left his truck, he had the shotgun in his hands and the .22 caliber semiautomatic pistol tucked into his waistband. As far as we know, the only weapon that he fired was the shotgun.

He walked toward the double doors of the attendance office and when he saw Vice Principal Barnes, he pointed the shotgun at Mr. Barnes and fired one round. Mr. Barnes was able to drive -- was able to dive into another doorway and avoid being truck by pellets. Hoffman then started firing indiscriminately at other people in the attendance squad area.

Agent Agundez was inside the office building when he heard the shots. He immediately went into the direction of the shots and saw Hoffman with a shotgun. Sheriff's Deputy Angela Pearl was in another section of the office and immediately joined Agent Agundez. Both officers left the double doors on the east side of the attendance office and Agent Agundez immediately shot at the suspect, hitting him at least twice.

And you should also know that we believe that Agent Agundez fired approximately five round. He struck the suspect twice, and a third round hit the shotgun, we believe, disabling it.

Hoffman was able to flee in a northern -- in a northerly direction back toward his truck. Agent Agundez, as I said, fired approximately five rounds at the suspect. Hoffman went in -- went off -- went out onto East Madison and then collapsed. Agent Agundez and Deputy Pearl then took him into custody.

Hoffman did not enter any of the school buildings and was only on the exterior portion of the campus. Our investigation so far shows that Hoffman did not attend morning classes. As far as we know, the first time that he came onto campus was at approximately 12:55 p.m. Due to the quick response of Agent Agundez and Deputy Pearl, the suspect was prevented from inflicting any further injuries other than those already reported.

The incident took a total of approximately 1 1/2 minutes from start to finish.

The suspect in this case, as you know, is Jason Anthony Hoffman. His date of birth is 3/10/73. He's approximately 6'1 and 210 points.

The weapons that were used were owned by Jason Hoffman and came from his home. Investigators are following up leads on the purchase dates of the weapons and also looking into who's the purchaser.

A search warrant that was served at the home turned up one additional weapon: a black powder muzzle-loading pistol.

And just for information also, the standard waiting pardon for the purchase of shotguns is 10 days and handguns is 15 days.

A number of city employees had children who attended Granite Hills High School. Most of these personnel were involved in the investigation. We would like to thank all of the allied agencies for their overwhelming response to this incident.

The initial estimate, number of personnel, is approximately 60 deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff's Office; eight officers from the California Highway -- eight investigators from the California Highway Patrol; 25 uniformed officers from the California Highway Patrol; three San Diego Police officers; bomb detectives utilizing -- also utilizing their bomb dogs; eight district attorney investigators; and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the state Department of Justice.

Now what I will do is give you some idea of what we believe our investigation shows to be the movements. For your reference, this map is oriented with north down. So this is north pointing down. This is east in this direction.

We believe the suspect drove his truck eastbound on Madison, came up into the bus loop area from the opposite direction in which you would normally enter the bus loop area, came around and parked approximately here. Agent Agundez' vehicle was parked approximately here on Madison facing east.

We believe the suspect then exited his vehicle, and as we said, he was armed at that time, walked up into the admin area outside the building, and encountered Vice Principal Dan Barnes, who was roughly in this area.

We believe that he fired at least one round at Mr. Barnes, and then turned and fired at least two more rounds through a door and window that leads into the administration area.

While this was happening, Agent Agundez was inside the administration area as was Deputy Pearl. Deputy Pearl was in another area. Both heard the shots being fired. Agent Agundez came from his position, headed out the double doors. He was followed immediately by Deputy Pearl, who let Agent Agundez know that she was in back of him and that she was a police officer and was there to cover him. They both came outside, at which time Agent Agundez immediately engaged the suspect, fired the rounds, and struck the suspect.

Suspect then made his way from that point to a point roughly in this area on Madison on the street, where he collapsed and was subsequently cuffed by our Agent Agundez and Deputy Pearl.

It was during the initial -- during this contact that Agent Agundez originally put out the information of an officer needs help and further clarification about shots being fired, roughly in this area.

Now with that, I'm going to have District Attorney Paul Pfingst come up and talk about the charges that are going to be filed.

PAUL PFINGST, SAN DIEGO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Good afternoon.

At this time, based upon the investigation and the reports submitted by the investigating officer, it is our intention to charge one count of attempted premeditated murder with a gun allegation and four counts of 245, assault with a deadly weapon, with gun allegations attached to both of them. The potential sentence for these charges is life plus 47 years.

So -- now we have not completed a complete and thorough review of all of the potential charges. So there may be some modifications by next week.

It's our expectation that the suspect will be arraigned next week. It's unclear at this time whether the hospital will be a hospital arraignment or not. Our expectation today is an arraignment on Tuesday. That can change. That's subject to change.

Now I'm going to ask your indulgence for a second on another unrelated -- somewhat related but technically unrelated issue. We noticed after the Santee shooting that some people sought to exploit that shooting by using various forms of communication to scare students, scare faculty and scare parents in the Santee community. One such person was tracked down in Maryland and was arrested.

We are receiving some information that some people may be trying to exploit this tragedy. Make no mistake about it, anyone who attempts to exploit this or the Santana tragedy will be treated harshly. We are not going to play around with people who make threats or imply the possibility of future violence.

We give fair warning. We expect people to behave respectfully toward the citizens of this community, and those people who -- either by telephone, mail, Internet, or any other way -- imply any future violence will be treated with all of the severity that we have in our court system.

DAVIS: Now bring up Granger Ward, who will address some of the school issues.

GRANGER WARD, SUPERINTENDENT, GROSSMONT UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT: As reported last night, counseling is available for students and their families at the Boys and Girls Club here in El Cajon. Counselors will also be available tomorrow, Saturday, between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. And that is available today, began at 8:00 a.m. this morning, will continue until 6:00 p.m. this evening.

Counseling and debriefing took place this morning for all of the staff of Granite Hills High School so that they can be prepared to return to school on Monday and support their students. School will reopen on Monday morning. We expect school to begin at 9:00 a.m. And it will be on a modified schedule.

Students will begin their day in their fifth period class, which was the class that -- where this incident took place. That's where their belongings are. So we will have students return to that class and meet with their teachers there. At that time, we will also have counselors at every single classroom.

At Granite Hills we have approximately 108 classrooms, so there will be counselors in every single classrooms, and counselors available for both parent, student and staff support, additional support in other areas of the school.

I would like to encourage all parents to come to school with their children on Monday morning. I think that it is an incredible show of support. We invite them to be there to come into classrooms. I think that we need to reclaim our school, and I really want parents to be there. Be there with your sons and daughters, be there with your grandchildren. Come to school with us on Monday morning.

On Monday evening, there will be a parents-only meeting at Granite Hills High School, and we encourage all parents to attend that meeting. It will be held, I believe, in the gymnasium. So on 6:00 p.m. Monday evening we invite all of the Granite Hills High School parents -- and this is a parents only parents-only meeting -- to attend. Thank you.

WATERS: The authorities in El Cajon, California charging Jason Hoffman -- 18 years of age, a senior at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon -- with one count of premeditated murder, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Possible maximum sentence for those charges, life plus 47 years.

This is a picture of the suspect, Jason Hoffman, who was hit twice: the most seriously wounded in this shooting. He was shot twice by a police officer who was on campus, who fired five rounds in all, hitting the suspect twice. One round, we're told, hit the shotgun that Jason Hoffman pulled out of his truck after arriving in school after skipping morning classes, and along with a .22 semiautomatic pistol, headed for the school, firing one time first at the vice principal school -- he was first to be fired upon -- and then fired indiscriminately in what's called the attendance quad area.

Total time for the shooting, 1 1/2 minutes. The district attorney of San Diego, Paul Pfingst, in an aside to this shooting, said it had been learned after the Santee shooting that some people were taking advantage to exploit the tragedy by implying future acts of violence at various schools. He said such attempts to exploit this tragedy will be treated harshly. We're not going to play around -- Joie.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, we want to go back out to El Cajon now. CNN's Tony Clark at the school, where there has been no class today. The next session will be on Monday.

Tony, update us on what you're seeing out there at the campus today.

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, fortunately, it is a much quieter, much calmer scene here at Granite Hills High School, much more so than it was yesterday afternoon just a little bit later then this time when the shooting took place.

Today, as you say, Joie, the teachers, the students have all been given the day off. There are no classes today. It is a chance to give them a chance to deal with yesterday's shooting.

Around the school, there is police tape. Throughout the morning, we have seen police officers, walking around the area, completing their investigations, doing their investigations. There are signs, signs of thanks to the school resource officer, who brought this potential tragedy to a very quick conclusion.

The policemen here are trying to learn all types of clues. We've learned a lot of what happened in the press conference we just heard. The biggest question, though, that remains unanswered at this point is why it happened.

Meanwhile, work crews are busy inside that quad area, the administrative quad area where the shooting took place. They're going through. They are replacing broken windows. They are filling in holes where the shotgun buckshot hit. They are repainting the area, trying to get the school looking as close to normal as possible for when students return on -- on Monday.

All right. Now, the gunman, the alleged gunman in this case, 18- year-old Jason Hoffman, remains hospitalized, as does one of his victims still in the hospital. He won't be arraigned until some other arrangements can be made. Whether that arraignment is at the hospital or not is yet to be determined.

Classes will resume on Monday. There will be counselors in all of the classrooms. I think he said 108 classrooms.

The parents of the students, the grandparents are all being urged to come here as Granite Hills High School tries to retake, reclaim its high school.

Tony Clark, CNN, El Cajon, California.

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