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School district wants to toss lawsuit over deadly shooting


Attorneys for the William S. Hart Union High School District state in new court papers that all or part of lawsuits filed by the parents of two teenagers who were shot and killed by a fellow student at Saugus High School in 2019 should be dismissed because the gunman’s actions were not foreseeable and school officials reacted quickly to the emergency.

The plaintiffs in the consolidated wrongful death/negligence lawsuit are Bryan and Cindy Muehlberger, the father and mother of the late 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger, and Frank and Nancy Blackwell, the father and mother of the late 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell.

The teens were fatally wounded when 16-year-old Nathan Berhow opened fire at the Santa Clarita school on Nov. 14, 2019. School security video showed him walk into the quad, pull a .45-caliber handgun from his backpack, shoot five people around him, then fatally turn the gun on himself. Three other students were wounded.

“None of his teachers knew anything about Nathan that gave them notice that he posed a danger to himself or others,” the lawyers for the district state in their court papers, adding that he had no discipline record at the school.

On Nov. 14, 2019, Berhow did not attend his first period class and was marked absent by his teacher, the district’s attorneys state in their court papers. Teachers are encouraged to report absences early in the class period, but are not required to do so and some do not do so until the end of class, according to the district’s attorneys’ court papers.

At about 7:36 a.m., school video showed Berhow putting his sunglasses on and taking a handgun from his backpack, then began firing about 10 seconds later, according to the court papers of lawyers for the district.

“Nathan fired the handgun at others and turned the weapon on himself,” the district’s lawyers state in their court papers. “A campus supervisor estimated the shots were over in 15 to 20 seconds. The video from school’s camera system revealed no sign of trouble prior to the incident.”