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Witnesses Recall School Rampage

Court: A judge orders Jason Hoffman to trial after hearing testimony in El Cajon shootings.

May 11, 2001|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — The assistant principal of Granite Hills High School testified Thursday that a smiling Jason Hoffman leveled a shotgun at him and said, "I'm going to get you," before beginning a shooting rampage March 22 that left five people wounded.

Testifying in Hoffman's preliminary hearing, Daniel Barnes said he dove through a door just as the senior at the El Cajon school fired a blast that shattered the door's window. Barnes said his life may have been saved by the fact that Hoffman had to pump the gun before firing.

El Cajon Police Agent Richard Agundez, the school's campus security officer, said Hoffman, 18, fired his shotgun five times in a matter of seconds. Agundez shot Hoffman in the lower jaw.

Agundez said Hoffman appeared angry at being shot. Teacher Elizabeth Murphy said that as Hoffman was being taken away on a stretcher by paramedics, he looked at her and said, "Good one, huh?"

After hearing four hours of testimony from students and others, Superior Court Judge Herbert Exarhos ordered Hoffman, who did not testify at the hearing, to stand trial. Hoffman faces six felony counts that could lead to a sentence of 54 years to life in prison.

Barnes testified that he had talked to Hoffman--he did not describe the subject--a month before the shooting, but that the session ended amicably with no punishment.

Friends have suggested that Hoffman, who was taking prescription drugs to control his temper, blamed Barnes because he had been rejected in his attempt to enlist in the Navy.

Defense attorney William Trainor said Hoffman had been seeing a psychiatrist and taking antidepressants before the shooting. He suggested that his client was not trying to kill anyone.

The shooting at Granite Hills came 17 days after a rampage at nearby Santana High, where two students were killed and 13 people wounded. Charles Andrew Williams, 15, a freshman at the school, faces murder charges in that case.

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