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Fatal shooting at US Amish school

BBC | October 2 2006

A gunman has shot dead three girls and injured seven others before killing himself in an attack on an Amish school in the US state of Pennsylvania.

The attack happened in a one-room school in the village of Paradise near Nickel Mines in Lancaster County.

The gunman entered the class and ordered all the boys and some adults to leave. He then tied up the girls and began shooting them in the head.

Police named the killer as 32-year-old truck driver Charles Carl Roberts IV.

The Amish are Anabaptist Christians who live away from the modern world, with restrictions on the use of modern devices such as cars and telephones.

The attack happened at a school for children aged six to 13.

Pennsylvania police commissioner Col Jeffrey B Miller said Roberts entered Georgetown School and began addressing the pupils, showing them an automatic handgun that he was holding.

Col Miller said Roberts was also armed with a shotgun.

In the classroom were 15 male pupils, 10-12 female pupils, one teacher and a number of assistants - older children and adults.

He told the boys to leave, along with a pregnant woman and three women who had young infants with them. The teacher also managed to leave the classroom and made a telephone call to the police at 1036 (1436 GMT).

The gunman made the girls line up in front of the blackboard, where he tied their feet using wire or plastic cuffs.

He then barricaded the doors with large pieces of wood.

Police arrived at the scene at about 1045 and set up a cordon around the school, Col Miller said.

The officers tried hailing the gunman on their car loudspeakers, but were unable to make contact, Col Miller said.

'Too late'

At this time an emergency operator in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, received a call from someone who said they had been called by the gunman.

In the phonecall, the gunman warned that if the police did not pull back from the area he would open fire on the hostages.

This message was relayed to the officers at the scene, Col Miller said, but as the message was going through shots fired in rapid succession were heard.

Police then stormed the building, breaking the windows to enter. But by the time they got there three girls and the gunman were dead.

Seven people were found injured, at least three of whom were shot in the head.

'Normal behaviour'

Col Miller said the girls had been shot one-by-one "execution style".

The gunman was a local milk tanker driver who often picked up milk from Amish farms in the area.

A father of three, he had worked his night shift as usual on Sunday night, finishing at 0300 on Monday.

His wife said he had seemed perfectly normal as he walked his children to the school bus at 0845, as he did every day.

Suicide notes

However, when his wife returned to the family home around mid-morning she discovered suicide notes that he had written to each of his children.

At 1100 she received a call from Roberts in which he said he was "not coming home" and that the police were with him.

The police said there were indications that he was motivated by an incident that happened some 20 years ago, but refused to go into details.

In a separate incident, two Las Vegas schools, one high school and one elementary school, were temporarily locked down while police hunted for a teenager spotted carrying a gun on the high school campus.

These latest incidents follow a week of gun-related violence in US schools

Last Wednesday a 16-year-old girl died when an armed man, who also killed himself, took six students hostage at a Colorado high school.

And on Friday, a head teacher at a high school in Wisconsin was killed when he confronted an armed 15-year-old student as he entered the school.

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