Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Gunman in my alma mater [Updated 8:05]

Luther CollegeThis makes it all come home, doesn't it? In the most literal way. When a gunman holds the student body hostage in the gymnasium of the high school you went to, all those school shooting stories take on a whole new reality.

The news is just breaking, but it appears to have had a happy ending. The gunman was taken into custody and no shots were fired.

Some classic elements are present from what I can see. An unhappy former student. Male. Probably young, so the chances of me knowing him are more than remote.

I am so thankful no one was killed. My adolescent memories are already going to have to deal with the images of a gunman in the halls. Peopling them with corpses would be unbearable.

Police at Luther

Updates will follow if there's anything interesting.

If anybody from Regina has information that isn't hitting the national media, please let me know.

The gunman, still unnamed, is indeed young. He would have been part of the Grade 12 class had he still been attending Luther College High School. He approached the pastor leading the daily chapel service and required him at gunpoint to read a three-page letter. School officials managed to clear out most of the students, but the Grade 12 class remained. I'm having a hard time picturing how that went, but further reports should hopefully clear that up.

Reactions of students have been similar to mine: how could this happen here? A small, academically oriented, private school with church affiliations (not that you should conclude that the student body is particularly religious). It doesn't seem to fit. But then these things rarely do, do they? Both school officials and police are being very tight-lipped about the identity of the gunman and what exactly happened. Rumours say that there was perhaps some advance warning, that the gun was only an airgun and not a firearm. Is bullying the issue here?

The gunman had a pellet gun, not a real firearm. This has apparently been announced on the local radio in Regina.

From the comment trail on the CBC article:
Everyone... I was there. im a new student grade 9 in fact... we went into chapel like any other ordinary day when a guy came in. Blonde hair and a camo gun... a compact .22 or 355 magnum.. im not an expert so anyway... we were in the gym/chapel for about 40 minutes.... people were crying... we (me and my friends) thought this was a skit/drill.... Sadly, it was not... It was pure terror and fear... I can say one thing... i never felt so emotional about high-school shootings... But trust me. if it ever happens to you, you will be very scared.... the first thing i did when i was scared was turn my cell phone level to vibrate... i sent a text to my dad telling him there was a guy with a gun in the school... after, my mom called. i ducked behind a student and told my mom.... call the cops.... thaank her soul, she did... the cops were on their way.... Our principal, MR. Anderson taackled the gunman and we all ran out.... when we ran we all knew then it wasnt a drill... The police and swat were there.... and we ran to the daycare to escape the high-school... my parents later found me and about 30 - 1 hour after the incident. here i am typing... I want to get the word out... To everyone in highschool or not... please FEEL sorry for the victims... I never thought this would happen to me... Untill it did... I NOW know the feelings of people in High-school shootings..... MY feelings go out to them....

If youve read this I, Thank you...

The letter apparently contained a disjointed rant about the boy's expulsion last year.

One news report incorrectly identifies the school as Catholic. I guess the Chinese don't get the incongruity of a Catholic school named Luther.

The principal, Mark Anderson, intervened physically (either tackling him or just grabbing the gun, there are different reports) when he realized that the gun was not a firearm.

Another report:
The principal of the school says he wrestled away the gun from an angry youth who had barged into the school's chapel in the middle of morning prayer.

Luther College's Mark Anderson says he kept talking with the youth, who was holding the school's pastor at gunpoint and making him read a letter.

Anderson says he got close enough to see that the weapon was not a real handgun.

At that point, he grappled with the suspect and held him until police arrived and arrested him.

No shots were fired and no one was injured.

Police, who have a 16-year-old in custody, say the weapon was an air-driven pellet pistol.

Police, including a SWAT team, converged on the school after receiving calls about the incident.

More details:
While police set up outside the school, inside the gym, Luther's principal Mark Anderson noticed the weapon was not as serious as first thought, so he approached the suspect and tried talking him out of acting further.

Anderson said he got a hold of the boy, but the suspect wringled loose.

Other teachers closed around him and then the SWAT team members from the Regina Police Service took him into custody.

More than 400 students were in the gym when the boy first entered.

Anderson estimates about 250 were able to get out while he talked to the boy

And here's the bullying aspect:
Alex McNair, a student at the Luther College high school, said the gunman forced the pastor to read a letter about his expulsion. He said the letter was about how the gunman had been bullied.

More student testimonies here.

Further details from this afternoon's press conference. It includes praise for students and staff for keeping their composure and handling the situation well.

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Melanie Avila said...

Wow. Just wow. Thank God no one was hurt.

Janet said...

No kidding. It looks like both teachers and police moved quickly and effectively. It's all I can do not to phone anybody I know in Regina to ask them about it. Chances are they don't know anything I don't. And I don't know anyone at the school anymore, with the possible exception of an old teacher or two who was young when I was there. But still. You always take a piece of your high school with you for the rest of your life.

Rachel Burton said...

Hey- wandered over from AW.

And wow. That's the best ending you could hope for in such a situation, but it's still so scary. We had a gunman in our school my senior year (I was on a field trip at the time). The campus police officer tackled him before he could harm anyone, but he did fire a couple of shots in the air. It really does drive it home when it's your school.

Janna Qualman said...

I'm so glad no one was hurt. Now maybe they can get the near-shooter some help. Keep us posted, Janet.

And, side note, GORGEOUS school!

Janet said...

Janna, I've been trying to scour up extra news on this all afternoon, but details have been pretty rare.

I suppose it is a nice school. When I went there, we just thought of it as old... ;o)

Pink Ink said...

That's just very sad, really. Chilling to see your former high school in the news, isn't it? Glad to see that no one got hurt...

Janet said...

PI, it was quite a shock. But because the whole thing was pretty much over by the time it was reported, it wasn't as bad. If it had been a prolonged stand-off, with uncertainty hanging in the air, it would have been much worse.

Of course, standard police doctrine now is to put a gunman out of commission as fast as possible in this kind of situation. They've learned from bitter experience.


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