Neighbors, classmates describe California school shooting suspect as a ‘quiet kid’

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SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KTLA) – The student who investigators believe is responsible for the deadly Saugus High School shooting  in Santa Clarita, California on Thursday was described as "a quiet kid."

Ryan McCracken, 20, a former childhood friend of the alleged shooter, talked about how they used to play together, growing up in Santa Clarita. But they slowly grew apart.

"We were friends when I was ... a little kid. We would just play in the yard, the backyard," McCracken said. "Over the years we stopped talking – it was like a disconnect between us. He just went his own path."

McCracken also mentioned briefly that the alleged shooter's father had died not too long ago.

"His father passed ... a little over a year go. His dad – I know he used to make bullets, so I'm assuming he had guns and stuff like that," McCracken said.

The shooter's name has not been released by authorities, but they described him as a 16-year-old boy. He turned the gun on himself after shooting five others in the campus quad before 8 a.m. Two of the victims have died.

Multiple sources have identified him as Nathaniel Berhow, and the Los Angeles Times cited law enforcement in providing his name.

At a late afternoon news conference, authorities confirmed an Instagram account that was circulating in connection with the shooting indeed belonged to the gunman. The account bio texted stated "Saugus have fun at school tomorrow," but that wording was changed after the shooting, indicating someone else had access to the account, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Capt. Kent Wegener said.

It's not clear if a hacker or a "friendly" has access to the account, and authorities are working to determine when the bio text was posted and changed, the captain said.

A 'quiet kid'

McCracken mentioned that the alleged shooter was a "quiet kid," and that this came as a shock to everyone. He also said that, as officials confirmed, Thursday was his former friend's birthday.

"It's just crazy. I wish I could have known what he was going through," McCracken said.

Another neighbor, Jared Axen, believed the suspect had been going through a tough time in his life.

"From what I understand, the suspect had been the one who had found his father's body inside the house. You're always looking, as a community, for ways you can reach out to the person next to you, someone you know is going through something," Axen said. "What's hard is that the answer you sometimes get is, 'Oh, I'm fine.' You need to be wiling to press them for information."

Axen also talked about how he'd known the suspect since he was born and how he was a quiet and polite boy.

"I've known the whole family my whole life. It's just – it's so surprising. You hear about things like this in the news, you don't expect it to be your own community," Axen said. "He was a very quiet person, a kind person. He was respectful, how he talked about others. 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."

Several students who attended Saugus High School stated that the suspect was on the cross country team and "kept to himself."

"You would never expect this from him," a junior at the school said.

He suspect lived a little over 2 miles' drive from the campus, at a home in the 22900 block of Sycamore Creek Drive in Santa Clarita, Wegener said. Warrants were signed and the home was being searched.

Wegener also confirmed that the alleged shooter was found in the quad of Saugus High School, along with the victims, and was hospitalized. The suspect was last listed in grave condition.

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