Death Toll In Amish Shooting Rises To Six - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/3/06

Death Toll In Amish Shooting Rises To Six

- The death toll in Monday's schoolhouse murder-suicide in the rural Amish region of Lancaster County, Pa., has risen to six, as two more children died overnight, state police said.

Police say a milk truck driver, identified as Charles Carl Roberts, 32, lined Amish schoolchildren up against the blackboard of their one-room schoolhouse and shot five young girls before turning the gun on himself. Three died in the schoolhouse.

Five children have died and another has been taken off life support, Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Col. Jeffrey Miller told ABC News. The sixth girl's condition has been described as grave.

A shotgun and handgun were found Monday next to Roberts, who is married with three children and lived near the schoolhouse.

Several other children were also shot in the head at close range, said police officers.

The shooting occurred around 10:45 a.m. in Nickel Mines, in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. Amish women in plain blue smocks and simple white caps hugged one another in grief and shock outside the sunlit one-room school.

"It is obvious to us this was a premeditated hostage scenario," a police official said. "He intended not to walk out of there alive."

'I'm Not Coming Home'

Police said Roberts took his own kids to their school bus before he entered the Amish school.

On "Good Morning America," Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller told ABC's Chris Cuomo that Roberts brandished a gun when he entered the schoolroom.

"He walked in, he had a gun in his hand, asked students if they'd ever seen it," Miller said.

Roberts then took at least 26 students and teachers hostage and began barricading the building.

Though he seemed serious, the school's teacher said Roberts did not appear angry. "He had a very serious demeanor and approach to him, he wasn't agitated but he had a very serious approach to what he was doing," Miller said, recounting what the teacher told police.

At one point, Roberts let the male students and four older women go, only holding onto the girls. Miller said one girl was able to escape.

"There was one child that escaped with her brother at the time that the boys were allowed to leave the school," he said.

Troopers arrived nine minutes after a teacher called 911 using a cell phone, according to police. Roberts then called his wife.

"He said the police are here, I'm not coming home," Miller said.

Police said Roberts told his wife, "I can't go on anymore, "and that he said he'd left notes that would explain it, and that he was trying to get revenge for something that happened 20 years ago, Miller said. He said it is not clear yet what that was.

Roberts then lined up his victims - one as young as six-years old - against a blackboard.

"They were standing, they were bound to each other, their legs were bound so they couldn't run away," Miller said.

No Chance to Talk to Shooter

Roberts phoned the police, telling them that if the troopers didn't leave, he'd start shooting.

"Within a few seconds of that information being put out to the perimeter ... they heard shots, multiple shots in quick succession," said Miller.

Police said the suspect was in the school for 45 minutes before they got the teacher's call.

Within nine minutes, police said they had surrounded the little school in bucolic Lancaster County. Parents and community members came to the school as word spread across the lush green fields that something was wrong.

The hostage negotiator who arrived with police had no chance to talk with the suspect. Police said the arriving troopers "didn't have enough time to launch a full-scale assault," because the man began opening fire just as they were first trying to reach the gunman on his cell phone.

Police officers described what they found as "a horrific crime scene." Miller told a press conference that the suspect had barricaded himself inside with furniture and with plywood that he had apparently brought along in his pickup truck for the purpose.

As ambulances and police cars gathered at the school in the bright midday sun, the usual country quiet was broken by news helicopters circling overhead.

Gary Kirchner, the Lancaster County coroner, told reporters it was "a terrible tragedy" in a community that considered itself, until today, virtually crime free.

The shooting dragged the Amish, who normally seem stuck in an idyllic rural past of horse-drawn buggies and butter churns, straight into a national series of school attacks.

It was the third school attack in a week, after a student in Wisconsin shot and killed his principal and a drifter in Colorado took six female high school students hostage, molested them and then, after shooting and killing one of them, shot himself.

Psychologists report that coverage of such events can have an unsettling effect on already disturbed individuals, inducing them to "copy" these crimes.

ABC News' Chris Cuomo, Bill Blakemore and Richard Esposito contributed to this report.

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