An ordinary 15-year-old high school student held teacher Valerie Burd’s West Civilization class including 23 classmates hostage on Monday (November 29, 2010) for about five hours before shooting himself when police broke into the classroom.
Samuel Hengel, who had a 9 mm semi-automatic and a .22 caliber semi-automatic with ammunition, which he had in a backpack in his school locker, apparently did not mean to harm the hostages. He shot at a desk, a wall, a movie projector, and other equipment in the room.
All 24 of the hostages walked away shaken but unharmed, Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik told reporters.
Officers had been alerted by the school principal about two hours into the ordeal. SWAT Officers positioned outside the classroom said they heard three gunshots as Hengel fired at the telephone and a computer shortly after 8 p.m. and busted through the door of the classroom. Hengel shot himself as officers approached. He was taken to a Marinette hospital and later was transferred to a Green Bay hospital where he died the following day.
Samuel Hengel was reported to be well-liked. Principal Corry Lambie said, “He was a student in good standing.” “He’s a fine young man, and I’m totally taken aback,” said Keith Schroeder, a former teacher of Hengel, adding “it doesn’t fit any of the things or the molds that you read about people. I couldn’t say enough good things about the family.”
Authorities interviewed Hengel’s parents, but still don’t have a motive for what happened. Hengel’s family said
in a statement that they’d seen “no indicators” from the teen who loved “anything that included his family and the outdoors” to make them think something was wrong.
“We wish we knew and could provide insight to what led Sam to take these drastic acts,” the statement said. “In the coming days and weeks as we talk to other people involved in this incident we hope reasons surface so we too, can stop asking ourselves ‘why?'”
The school district will be evaluating if tighter security will be needed. “We live in a democracy where we balance freedoms and our personal protection. I’m sure that we could have airport security at the Marinette High School if somebody wanted to step up to the plate at five to ten million bucks a year, said Marinette County District Attorney Allan Brey. “I don’t know that our school district wants to do that. As a taxpayer in the school district I’m not sure I want to pay for that.”