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Taft High School teacher says he's not a hero

Friday, January 11, 2013

Taft High School teacher Ryan Heber says he was face-to-face with the gunman soon after an emergency preparedness meeting.

"There was a meeting about emergency preparedness at school this morning, 20 minutes after the meeting, I have a gunman in my classroom," Heber said.

Thursday morning, a 16-year-old boy walked into Heber's science class and shot a classmate. After the shots rang out, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Heber tried to get his 28 students out of that classroom by engaging the shooter in conversation to distract him.

"The heroics of these two people goes without saying. ... They could have just as easily ... tried to get out of the classroom and left students, and they didn't," the sheriff said. "They knew not to let him leave the classroom with that shotgun."

But Heber says he doesn't want to be labeled a "hero."

"I'm not ready yet to talk about what happened in my classroom. I don't feel comfortable being called a hero. I'm just a teacher, a husband and a father to my two boys," he said.

The shooter said to Heber, "I don't want to shoot you." The suspect eventually surrendered his shotgun to Heber and campus supervisor Kim Lee Fields. His pockets were stuffed with more ammunition, Youngblood said.

Heber's forehead was grazed by a stray pellet, but Youngblood said the teacher who had graduated from the Taft school two decades ago was unaware he had been hit and didn't need medical attention.

Morgan Alldredge said she was only a few feet away from the gunman during the incident. She says there were a lot of heroes in that classroom.

"The majority of them were telling him to put down the gun, so that might have eased him up a little bit. Some were crying, so he might have seen the fear in their eyes," she said.

The school was closed Friday as residents of the town try to make sense of what happened. Counselors were made available to those who needed to talk to someone about the shooting.

The suspect's name is on the lips of everyone in town, but authorities aren't releasing it because he's a juvenile. He had felt bullied by the victim for more than a year, said Youngblood, who added that the claim was still being investigated.

The Taft attack came less than a month after a gunman massacred 20 children and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., then killed himself.

That shooting prompted President Barack Obama to promise new efforts to curb gun violence. Vice President Joe Biden, who was placed in charge of the initiative, said he would deliver new policy proposals to the president by next week.

Taft is located about 120 miles north of Los Angeles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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