A 15-year-old youth armed with a handgun who burst into a classroom and held 23 students and a teacher hostage for more than five hours in a US town died on Tuesday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Sophomore Samuel Hengel died at a Green Bay hospital, Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik was quoted as saying by local media reports. Hengel shot himself as police stormed the classroom at Marinette High School last night. Earlier reports said that he was in "grave condition."
The 24 captives were unharmed, according to officials in Marinette, Wisconsin, where the bizarre drama took place. The town's police chief said all the students and the woman teacher who acted as a mediator between the hostage taker and authorities were released at 2100 hrs and no shots were fired. "Earlier reports of injuries and gun shots being fired were incorrect", Skorik said.
The gun wielding young man, later identified as a student stormed into the school towards the end of the school day around 1500 hrs (2000 hrs GMT) and then took the students hostage. Police said, the unidentified youth who was carrying two handguns, a .22 caliber semi-automatic and a 9mm pistol and empty cartridges at the crime scene revealed both weapons had been used.
The drama came to an end five and half hours later, just minutes after the gunman had released five students to allow them to use the washroom. As the students trooped out, police rushed in after hearing gunshots. "The officers breached the door and entered the classroom and saw the suspect standing in the front of the classroom with guns and as police aimed at him asking him to surrender he shot himself".
The motive for the crime remained unclear, police said. Earlier, as negotiations were going on, a police commando team had ringed the school. Teacher Valerie Burd was lauded by Skorik as "nothing short of heroic"--a person who kept a cool head and kept the suspect as calm as possible. As part of the ongoing investigation, authorities have interviewed the alleged gunman's parents, as well as classmates; they say this act was "uncharacteristic" of his personality.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, although the boy refused to talk to police and hostage negotiators, he allowed the teacher to have unfettered access with authorities. The town is about 80 kilometres north of the city of Green Bay and has approximately 700 students. Police later closed the school till further notice.