A teacher at a Northern California high school has apologized for accidentally firing a gun inside his classroom, causing minor injuries to three students.

Dennis Alexander, who is also an elected member of the Seaside City Council and a reserve officer for a nearby police department, apologized and thanked community members for their support at a council meeting Thursday night, the Monterey Herald newspaper reported .

"I can't find the words to say how sorry I am for the incident," he said at the packed meeting attended by about 100 students who supported Alexander.

Students also have organized a petition to keep him on as a teacher. Alexander has been placed on administrative leave from his job at the school and his role at the Sand City Police Department.

Police have said Alexander was pointing the gun at the ceiling Tuesday to make sure it was not loaded when it discharged inside his classroom at Seaside High School. He was not authorized to have a gun on the campus in the coastal community about 115 miles south of San Francisco.

Police say no one sustained serious injuries in the incident a day before a national walkout by students to protest gun violence in schools.

The accidental shooting came amid a national debate over whether to arm teachers in the aftermath of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.