HOUSTON – There were four students in the room with Cesar Cortes and the accused gunman when the fatal shooting occurred at Bellaire High School Tuesday.
One-by-one, they shared their eyewitness accounts of what happened before and after the shooting with KPRC 2. Two of them have been interviewed by police.
Where and when did the shooting happen, and why wasn’t a teacher there?
The four students, all seniors, said the shooting happened inside the JROTC supply room in the JROTC building at Bellaire High School minutes before the 4 p.m. bell.
They said the JROTC instructor was next door in the JROTC classroom at the time, which they described as normal at that time of day.
JROTC uniforms, practice rifles and other equipment are kept in the supply room, the students said.
What were they doing inside the supply room at the time?
JROTC drill practice was about to start, and everyone in the supply room except one female witness are members of the team. They were preparing to take part in the practice.
The four seniors don’t have a seventh period.
They each said the accused gunman, who they said was a junior and also a member of JROTC, was skipping class at the time.
What happened just before the shooting?
One male witness said the accused gunman walked up to him and said: “I have something to show you. He lifted his shirt up, and we saw that there was a gun in his pants. Me and Cesar saw it."
“I think he was only trying to show me, but Cesar was standing next to me,” he said. “He pulls it out of his pants, and he cocks it and a bullet comes out. After I saw that, that it was loaded, I walked away; because I didn’t want to be hurt or put in danger."
A witness, who was sitting on a desk only a few feet away, said she heard Cesar say “don’t point it at me” just before the shooting.
Another witness said he was sitting nearby but didn’t hear the back and forth.
“I saw a quick glimpse of the weapon,” he said. “I was a couple of feet away."
“I thought hopefully that’s not real,” he said.
Then he said he stepped into a changing room a few feet away from Cesar and the gunman in order to change into his uniform.
Did anyone see the actual shooting?
A witness said he walked away seconds before the shooting. He was turned the other way 15 to 20 feet from them when the handgun was fired.
Three witnesses were closer but were not looking directly at Cesar and the gunman when the shot was fired.
What happened just after the shooting?
Three of the students immediately looked up to see the gunman holding Cesar up, trying not to let him fall.
“I turned around and I saw (the gunman) holding Cesar, holding up Cesar,” one said. “They were side by side.”
“Cesar (was) holding his chest and (the gunman) had his arm around him trying to help him walk," another witness said.
“His arm was around Cesar, carrying him, side by side,” a witness told KPRC 2.
One witness, who was feet away in the changing room when the gun was fired, behind a curtain, said: "I hesitated and during the hesitation, I heard Cesar say ‘I got shot, I got shot.’
"Cesar was saying, ‘Why did you do it? Why did you hit me?’” another witness said. “I was making eye contact with them.”
How did the gunman get away?
The students said the gunman walked Cesar to the door, opened the door, left Cesar on the railing of the ramp just outside the JROTC building and walked away.
“I saw Cesar on the railing and (the gunman) walking away,” a witness said. “He was just walking.”
“He never ran, he just walked away,” another witness said.
What happened next?
The students went next door to the JROTC classroom, where there was an instructor. They called 911 and waited for first responders.
All four students said Cortes and the gunman knew each other and interacted in JROTC, but were not friends or enemies.
“They had no beef with each other,” one witness said. “It’s a neutral relationship. They didn’t talk that much.”
“I heard no arguing between them," another witness said.