2019 Shooting at Saugus High School Remembered

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D.A. won't prosecute shooter's mother, Mami Matsuura-Berhow.

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

SAUGUS — It has been one year since a 16-year-old Saugus High School student opened fire on his classmates, killing two and injuring three others before turning the gun on himself.

Dominic Blackwell, 14, and Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15, were killed, and Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow took his own life shortly afterward during the Nov. 14, 2019 shooting, which started at 7:38 a.m. and lasted 16 seconds.

Dominic Blackwell and Gracie Anne Muehlberger

Two girls, ages 15 and 14, and a boy, age 14, were injured. The last injured student was released from the hospital on Nov. 18.

Aside from attending Saugus High School, the gunman and his victims reportedly had no known personal connection.

Berhow, who committed the crime on his 16th birthday, died one day after he shot himself in the head with his last bullet.

His parents had divorced in 2016, and he lived with his mother and sister. Several students described Berhow as a quiet student. He was a Boy Scout and a junior varsity cross country runner, and was taking an Advanced Placement class in history.

Since Nov. 9, the Saugus community has been remembering the tragedy while trying to heal amid the COVID-19 pandemic during a Wellness Week dubbed Unity of Community. Those activities were capped Nov. 14 with a virtual memorial featuring speakers, music and other remembrances that was streamed on YouTube.

Other events last week have included a city proclamation marking the anniversary, the completion of two campus murals featuring favorite likenesses of the two students who were killed, yoga, gardening and various online events.

According to a reminder on the school’s website (https://www.sauguscenturions.com), “If you need support during the week of Nov. 9-Nov. 13, please sign in to the SHS Warm Line, the [William S.] Hart [Union High School] District Warm Line, or access the Serenity Space.” For those who weren’t able to see it on Saturday, the virtual memorial can also be accessed on the website.

Nathaniel Berhow

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office announced that it will not pursue criminal charges against Berhow’s mother, Mami Matsuura-Berhow.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators had recommended two counts for contributing to the delinquency of a minor and criminal storage of a firearm for not locking up the weapons her son later took to school.

Investigators said the .45-caliber handgun used in the shooting was a “ghost gun” assembled from a variety of parts and did not have a registration number. It was unclear whether the gun had been assembled by Berhow’s father, who died in 2017, or by Berhow himself. Berhow was too young to have legally purchased such a handgun in California.

A spokesperson in the District Attorney’s Office said there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case against the mother.

Several weapons, some of them unregistered, were found in Berhow’s home. These may have belonged to the father, who was reported to have been an avid hunter. A friend said that Berhow had grown up around guns and was taught to use them responsibly.

Authorities said that they found no evidence to help them identify a motive, such as a manifesto, diary, or suicide note.

The Saugus case was one of several school shootings that prompted calls for stronger gun control. The school was commended for having conducted active shooter drills prior to the shooting.

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