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'Heroics' prevent worse US school shooting

A sign reflects an old population estimate on July 21, 2008, in Taft, California
A sign reflects an old population estimate on July 21, 2008 in Taft, California. A high school student in Taft walked into class on Thursday armed with a shotgun, shot one classmate and missed another before staff "heroics" helped prevent further bloodshe

A high school student in California walked into class on Thursday armed with a shotgun, shot one classmate and missed another before staff "heroics" helped prevent further bloodshed.

The 16-year-old gunman's victim was airlifted to hospital where he was in a "critical condition" after the shooting at a high school in Taft, north of Los Angeles, said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.

After the shots were fired, a teacher and a campus supervisor arrived and engaged the shooter in conversation, allowing the rest of the 28-member class to get out safely.

"The student was still armed with a shotgun, and they stayed and... distracted him in a conversation, allowing the students to get out of the classroom and ultimately talking the student down," Youngblood told reporters.

"The heroics of these two people goes without saying: to stand there and face someone who has a shotgun, whose already discharged it and shot a student, that speaks volumes for these two young men, and what they may have prevented."

He added: "They could have just as easily tried to get out of the classroom and left students and they didn't. They knew not to let him leave that classroom with that shotgun, and they took that risk.

"We're very proud of the job they did."

The incident happened around 9:00 am (1700 GMT) and the suspect was taken into custody about 20 minutes later, according to the Los Angeles Times. Taft is some 120 miles (190 kilometers) north of Los Angeles.

The newspaper cited the local ABC television news affiliate as saying they received phone calls from people hiding in closets inside the school, which was being evacuated and searched.

The shooting comes weeks after the massacre of 26 people including 20 young children at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, which has revived America's perennial debate about gun control.

Taft Union High School was placed on lockdown after the morning incident, the latest in a spate of US shootings.

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