Siege at Amish School Ends in Murders, Suicide
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
It was a grim scene today at an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the third deadly shooting at a U.S. school in less than a week. This morning, in the one room West Nickel Mines school, a heavily armed gunman shot and killed at least three girls execution style. At least seven other girls were critically wounded. According to police, the gunman was Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old local milk truck driver and father of three.
Commissioner Jeffrey Miller of the Pennsylvania State Police said police were first alerted to the situation when a teacher who managed to get out of the schoolhouse dialed 911.
Commissioner JEFFREY MILLER (Pennsylvania State Police): The call came in from a schoolteacher stating a male entered the school and had taken hostages. Now, this school is a small, one room schoolhouse. It's an Amish school. There were approximately 15 males between the ages of six and 13 attending school there, as well as somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 females also attending school, between the ages of six and 13.
BLOCK: Roberts had three guns, among them a semi-automatic pistol. He told all of the boys in the school to leave the building. He also allowed a pregnant woman and some women with babies to leave. He lined the girls up against a blackboard and bound their feet. Police surrounded the school and tried to talk to Roberts on loudspeakers. Roberts told 911 dispatchers to tell the police to leave immediately or he would begin shooting. Moments later, Roberts began firing at the girls.
Police then stormed the schoolhouse. Again, Commissioner Miller.
Commissioner MILLER: All of the doors were blocked. He had taken with him two-by-sixes and two-by-fours. He had blocked all the exits from the building. We couldn't get in through the doors. We had to break the windows. The troopers broke the windows and were able to get in, found the suspect dead on the floor of the schoolhouse.
BLOCK: The gunman, Charles Roberts, had no known criminal record. Commissioner Miller said Roberts left several rambling suicide notes to his family this morning. He also spoke with his wife before the attack.
Commissioner MILLER: Apparently, he did make a statement to his wife on the phone that he was acting out in a way to achieve revenge for something that happened 20 years ago. And I think that the location, the school, was probably chosen because it provided a close opportunist, you know, an opportunity to attack where he knew he had young kids.
For some reason, I believe, just based on what we know now at this point - I mean, we've got a lot of work to do - but from what we know at this point, it seems as though he wanted to attack young, female victims, and this is close to his residence.
That's the only reason we can figure that he went to this school, plus this school - it's a one-room schoolhouse. You can get to it easily. It's not really secured like maybe another school in a school district would be.
BLOCK: A statement from the shooter, Charles Roberts's wife reads in part “our hearts are broken. Our lives are shattered and we grieve for the innocence and lives that were lost today. We will bring you more on this story later in the program.