A dairy truck driver with a grudge burst into a one-room Amish schoolhouse on Monday and killed three girls execution style before committing suicide in the third deadly United States school shooting in the past week, authorities said.
Eight other girls were wounded and CNN reported that one of them died several hours after the assault.
The heavily armed gunman, identified by authorities as Charles Carl Roberts (32) had ordered the boys and some adults out of the classroom before opening fire on the girls.
Roberts, who was not Amish, had dropped his own three school-aged children at their bus stop in the morning, showing no sign of the rampage to come, Commissioner Jeffrey Miller of Pennsylvania state police said at a news conference.
But Roberts had left a rambling suicide note and letter to his wife and children, referring to an event 20 years ago for which he sought revenge, and he planned for a lengthy siege.
”He was angry with life and was angry at God. … There may have been a loss of a child at some point in his life,” Miller said, declining to elaborate.
The Georgetown School classroom had 26 students aged six to 13. After Roberts ordered the 15 boys and some adults to leave, the victims were shot ”at close range, execution style, firing into the back of the head,” Miller said.
One of the dead was believed to be a teacher’s aide.
Discussing the state of the wounded victims, Miller said, ”It would be a miracle if we were somehow able to have no further loss of life.”
The tragedy stunned this peaceful, largely Amish community some 100km west of Philadelphia, where descendants of settlers of Swiss-German descent have preserved a religious lifestyle that shuns aspects of modern life like cars and electricity.
Amish farmers live simply, travel by horse and buggy and cultivate the land using old-fashioned traditions.
Roberts fired three rounds from a shotgun and 13 from a 9mm semi automatic pistol, police said. He also had a rifle, 600 rounds of ammunition, a stun gun, two knives and tools including a hammer, a hacksaw, pliers, wire, eye-bolts, rolls of tape and a bucket with a change of clothes.
While a hostage negotiator was trying to call the man’s cellphone, Roberts opened fire and about 10 police troopers stormed the building. They found the gunman dead along with the bodies of three girls.
”One of the children died in the arms of one of our troopers,” Miller said.
The town was stunned.
”It was terrible. I felt like crying. I never dreamt that I would see it in a one-room schoolhouse,” said Jake King (56) an Amish man, who lives near the school.
Daniel Beiler (30) said the incident was having a ”severe impact” on the community of about 300 people.
”I just don’t know how to react to it yet,” he said. ”I’m just in a daze. We’ve never had a problem like this before. It makes us a lot more close-knit community.”
There were similarities between the Pennsylvania tragedy and last week’s school shooting in Bailey, Colorado, where a schoolgirl was killed. However, Miller said he did not believe it to be copycat attack.
In the Colorado shooting last Wednesday, a drifter took six female high school students hostage, molested them and then shot one dead before killing himself as police closed in. Then on Friday a 15-year-old student killed his school’s principal in western Wisconsin. – Reuters