NICKEL MINES – A 32-year-old truck driver took more than a dozen students hostage in a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, barred the doors with boards and fatally shot at least six people including himself, authorities said.
The gunman, identified as Charles Carl Roberts, had been in the school about 45 minutes before police got the call, State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said. Officers had to break windows to get into the school. By then, three young girls and the gunman were dead, he said.
Police said earlier the gunman sent the male students outside while keeping the girls in and blocking the doors.
It was the nation’s third deadly school shooting in less than a week, and one of the deadliest in U.S. history.
“So far, six confirmed dead, and the helicopters are pulling into (Lancaster General Hospital) like crazy,” Coroner G. Gary Kirchner said.
Three girls, ages 6-12, were admitted to Lancaster General Hospital in critical condition with gunshot wounds, spokesman John Lines said. Officials at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center confirmed that victims also were being admitted there.
Police late Monday morning surrounded the one-room schoolhouse, a tiny building surrounded by a white fence and farm fields in southeastern Lancaster County. The Lancaster County 911 Web site reported that dozens of emergency units were dispatched to a “medical emergency” at 10:45 a.m.
Hours after the attack, about three dozen people in traditional Amish clothing, broad-brimmed hats and bonnets stood nearby speaking to one another and authorities. Others gathered with a group of children at a nearby farm while investigators stretched out in a line across a field searching for evidence.
The school is just outside Nickel Mines, a tiny village about 55 miles west of Philadelphia.
On Friday, a school principal was gunned down in Cazenovia, Wis. A 15-year-old student, described as upset over a reprimand, was charged with murder in the killing. Just two days earlier, an adult gunman held six girls hostage in a school at Bailey, Colo., before killing a 16-year-old girl and then himself.
Nationwide, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., remains the deadliest school shooting, claiming the lives of 15 people, including the two teenage gunmen. Last year, a 16-year-old shot seven people to death at a school on Minnesota’s Red Lake Indian Reservation, then killed himself.