My heart is breaking this week as children are being terrorized and murdered. What kind of mind would make someone do this?
Gunman storms school, kills female students
Three killed at the scene before shooter took his own life, police say
NBC, MSNBC and news services
Updated: 3:47 p.m. CT Oct 2, 2006
NICKEL MINES, Pa. - A 32-year-old truck driver took about a dozen girls hostage in a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, barricaded the doors and shot to death at least three of the girls and then himself, authorities said. Seven other girls were taken to hospitals with gunshot wounds, some to the head.
It was the nation’s third deadly school shooting in less than a week, and similar to an attack just days earlier at a school in Colorado.
Lancaster County Coroner G. Gary Kirchner initially reported that six people were killed, but later said he wasn’t certain. Police said they found four people, including the gunman, dead in the schoolhouse.
The gunman, identified as Charles Carl Roberts, had been in the school for about 45 minutes before police arrived, State Police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller said.
Roberts, who was not Amish, walked into the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School with a shotgun and handgun, then released about 15 boys, a pregnant woman and three women with infants before barring the doors, Miller said.
The girls were lined up along a blackboard and their feet were bound, he said.
A teacher called police around 10:30 a.m. and reported that a gunman was holding students hostage.
Once police arrived, Roberts called 911 and threatened to shoot if the police didn’t leave, Miller said. When police tried to call Roberts’ cell phone, shots rang out inside.
Officers had to break windows to get into the school. By then, three young girls had been killed “execution-style” and the gunman was dead, Miller said.
The wounded included three girls, all critical and ages 6 through 12, who were admitted to Lancaster General Hospital, spokesman John Lines told NBC affiliate WGAL-TV.
Gunman spoke of 20-year-old incident
Police said Roberts, who lived nearby, called his wife from a cell phone at around 11 a.m., saying he was "acting out in revenge for something that happened 20 years ago," Miller said. "It seems as though he wanted to attack young, female victims."
Roberts told his wife that he had also left a note for her and their three children.
Roberts entered the school, sent the teachers and male students outside and kept the girls in while blocking the doors, police said. He had wire ties that he used to bind the girls, police said.
Twenty-seven students are said to have attended the private school, which teaches first through eighth grades.
The school is situated among farmlands just outside Nickel Mines, a tiny village about 55 miles west of Philadelphia.
Other recent incidents
The shooting followed reports earlier on Monday of lockdowns at four schools in the Las Vegas area.
Police and trained dogs had deployed around Mojave High and Elizondo Elementary schools in North Las Vegas, Nevada, and police were looking for an armed youth, KLAS-TV reported.
Monday’s violence also followed two gun-related incidents that shook U.S. schools last week.
On Friday, a 15-year-old student fatally wounded his school’s principal in western Wisconsin.
On Wednesday, in a disturbingly similar attack, a drifter in Colorado took six female high school students hostage, molested them and then shot one to death and killed himself as police closed in.
“If this is some kind of a copycat, it’s horrible and of concern to everybody, all law enforcement,” said Monte Gore, undersheriff of Park County, Colo.
“On behalf of Park County and our citizens and our sheriff’s office, our hearts go out to that school and the community,” he said.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.