Accused Santa Fe High School shooter taken into federal custody

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter, Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor

HOUSTON - The teen accused of orchestrating the Santa Fe shooting that left 10 people dead and 13 injured in 2018 has been taken into custody by federal agents, according to authorities.

The attorney for Dimitrios Pagourtzis told KPRC his client was taken into custody by the FBI Monday morning. Nicholas Poehl said for now Pagourtzis will remain in federal custody and he is not certain when or if his client will be taken back to the Galveston County jail.

Exactly what new charges Pagourtzis is facing are unknown since the case remains sealed. Even though Pagourtzis could be charged as an adult under Texas law, federal law still considers him to be a juvenile, which is why the case is under seal. If Pagourtzis is certified as an adult in federal court then the charges would become a matter of public record.

Pagourtzis did appear before a federal judge in Galveston Monday afternoon, but the hearing was closed, only his immediate family was allowed inside the courtroom. One of Pagourtzis’ defense attorneys said the teen was represented during the hearing by a federal public defender.

“I was actually not in the room for the procedure, I had to remain outside,” said defense attorney Katy-Marie Lyles.

Poehl said no one on Pagourtzis’ defense team is licensed to practice in federal court and it has not been decided whether a new attorney will be brought on board or if the federal public defender’s office will continue representing him in the federal case.

Poehl was also uncertain how the federal charges would impact the timeline of the capital murder case against Pagourtzis. The judge presiding over the state case recently granted a change of venue and was going to announce the location for the trial during a hearing in May. Prosecutors have not yet responded to KPRC’s request for comment.

“It was a relief because we have been trying and trying to get these charges pressed. They are so important to us so he'll never come out of prison. Never, ever. He doesn't serve to be free, ever,” said Gail McLeod, whose son Kyle was slain during the May 2018 mass shooting.

Several parents gathered in the lobby of the federal courthouse; all had been pushing for federal charges to be filed. Parents of those murdered or maimed during the shooting were aghast Pagourtzis could be eligible for parole in 40 years if convicted on the capital murder charge. Under Texas law, even though he is charged as an adult, anyone under the age of 18 cannot be given the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.

Parents pushed for the federal charge as a way to ensure Pagourtzis would never be released from prison.

“This is, this is a relief to us families. This is something the community and all 10 families have been pushing for; emails, conferences, drives to Austin, anything that would have our voices heard. We were all there doing that,” said Rosie Stone, whose son Christopher was killed.

Families of those killed or injured were initially told federal charges would not be filed and were stunned to hear about the reversal of that decision.

“We were just elated that there was opportunity for justice on the federal level for our community,” said Pam Stanich, whose son Jared Black was among those killed.

Several family members credited Crime Stoppers' Andy Kahan with helping put pressure on elected officials to talk to the federal government about filing these charges.

“Apparently the right foot got in the right butt down there in DC and whoever that foot was I want to thank them personally,” said John Barnes, the Santa Fe ISD police officer who was critically injured during the shooting.

None of the families KPRC spoke with said they had been given a reason why federal officials changed their minds on filing charges.

The family of Pagourtzis declined to comment as they left the federal courthouse.

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