Trapped in their classroom with a student gunman, a group of terrified Wisconsin high schoolers worked desperately to keep their captor calm by chatting and laughing with him about hunting and fishing.
The 15-year-old gunman eventually shot himself as police stormed the room at Marinette High School hours later Monday evening; he was hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening wound.
The teenager allowed five of his hostages out after roughly six and a half hours, at which point all 23 students, and their teacher, emerged unharmed. Student hostage Zach Campbell said the gunman seemed depressed, but he didn’t think he meant his classmates any harm.
“I didn’t know really what to think. I was just hoping to get out alive,” Campbell said Tuesday on CBS’ “Early Show.” “He didn’t want to shoot any of us.”
Campbell told the Associated Press that six of the gunman’s close friends were in that class. Authorities also said they did not know what might have motivated the boy who made no demands or requests during the standoff.
“As far as what caused this, it seems to be a mystery,” Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik said early Tuesday. “We have not been able to identify anything that precipitated this incident.”
Skorik said the suspect fired three shots immediately before police entered the room, but he had also fired at least two or three shots before that. He shot into a wall, a desk, and equipment in the room, but he was not aiming at any students, Skorik said. The shooter was carrying a 9 mm semi-automatic and a .22 caliber semi-automatic, had additional ammunition in his pocket, and a duffel bag with more bullets was found at the scene, the chief said. He also said that a bomb-sniffing dog was brought in to check the building for explosives and none were found. It was not clear to the chief where the boy got the weapons or how he sneaked them into school.
Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” student Austin Biehl said the teacher asked the gunman why he was holding them hostage.
“He just said ‘no,’ that he didn’t want anything, didn’t want any help,” said Biehl, who said he was so scared that his legs were shaking.
The gunman was taken to a nearby hospital, yet authorities have declined to release his name. The gunman’s condition was unknown early Tuesday. Skorik said that the wound was potentially life threatening, but he didn’t know where the student had shot himself.
The shooter entered the classroom, where he was a student, at around 1:30 p.m., Skorik said. It wasn’t until the end of the school day, more than two hours later, that the principal learned that neither the teacher nor any of the students from the class had been seen. Skorik said he went to investigate and was threatened by the shooter to “get out of here.”
Campbell said the class was watching a movie when the gunman shot the projector, then fired a second round.