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"He's gone forever. We are broken": Thousands attend vigil for Santa Clarita school shooting victims

CA school shooter's motive remains unclear

Santa Clarita, California — Thousands of people gathered Sunday at a city park to hold a candlelight vigil to remember two students shot and killed by a classmate at his Southern California high school, as investigators tried to determine what prompted the deadly attack that left three other teens wounded.

The event lasted almost two hours and was held in the park that students evacuated to after the shooting, reports CBS Los Angeles.

The brother of one of the two students killed told the crowd in Central Park his sister, 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger, "was the best sister ever. You always put a smile on my face."

Riley Muehlberger shared fond memories of his sister's birthday party and how she would talk to him about her life at school.

"I watched you grow up more and more every day. You said you looked up to me when I graduated from Saugus," he said to silence broken only by sobs from the crowd, CBS L.A. said.

Santa Clarita Community Holds Vigil For Those Killed And Injured In Saugus High School Shooting
Mourners gather at a vigil for shooting victims on November 17, 2019 in Santa Clarita, California; authorities said Nathaniel Berhow, a 16 year-old-student, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after killing two people and wounding three others in the November 14 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita Apu Gomes / Getty

Angie Davidson, an aunt of 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell, said his death has devastated the family. Davidson was surrounded by other family members, several who were crying, as she spoke.

"He's gone forever. We are broken," Davidson said. "Please remember the two precious lives that we lost."

Blackwell was an ROTC student at Saugus. Two of his fellow ROTC cadets remembered him as a fun-loving and helpful classmate.

Saugus Principal Vince Perry told the crowd at the vigil that the event was a moment to grieve.

"We are here to grieve the loss of two teenagers, two friends, two students, two siblings and two children," he said

Joann Garcia said she came to the vigil at Central Park shaken but determined to help the community heal from the shooting at Saugus High School.

Santa Clarita Community Holds Vigil For Those Killed And Injured In Saugus High School Shooting
Mourners hug each other at a vigil for shooting victims on November 17, 2019 in Santa Clarita, California; authorities said Nathaniel T. Berhow, a 16 year-old-student, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after killing two people and wounding three others in the November 14 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita Apu Gomes / Getty

"It's very hard. We thought that this would never happen here. It has affected everybody," she said. "We are all uniting."

Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean touched on the theme of the vigil in her remarks. "Tonight and every day, we are Saugus strong," she said.

"I can think of no better better way to show the rest of the nation tonight as we light up well over ten thousands glow sticks, the colors of Saugus High School," Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Smyth said, according to CBS L.A.

Saugus High School will remain closed until Dec. 2, but counselors will be available to help students cope with their grief, said school district officials in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita.

Detectives were searching for a motive for the killings carried out by Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow on Thursday, his 16th birthday. The teen pulled a .45-caliber handgun from his backpack and shot five students at random before shooting himself in the head. He died the next day.

A wounded 14-year-old girl was released from the hospital late Friday. A 15-year-old girl remained hospitalized in good condition. A 14-year-old boy was treated and released Thursday.

Berhow had shown no signs of violence and didn't appear to be linked to any ideology, authorities said.

After more than 40 interviews and a search of his home, authorities still were in the dark, Captain Kent Wegener of the Sheriff's Department's homicide unit said at a news conference Friday.

"We did not find any manifesto, any diary that spelled it out, any suicide note or any writings," he said.

Additional law enforcement will be posted Monday at schools in the Santa Clarita area.

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