Nickel Mines, PA (CBS/AP) - A 32-year-old milk truck driver took about a dozen girls hostage in a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, barricaded the doors with boards and killed at least three girls and apparently himself, authorities said.
It was the nation's third deadly school shooting in less than a week, and similar to an attack just days earlier at a school in Colorado.
The gunman, identified as Charles Carl Roberts IV, was inside for over half an hour and had barred the doors with 2x4s with the girls inside, State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said. By the time officers broke windows to get in, three girls and the gunman were dead, Miller said.
Three children were found dead at the scene and seven others were taken to hospitals, Miller said.
Roberts walked into the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School with a shotgun and an automatic handgun and barricaded himself inside after releasing about 15 boys, a pregnant woman and three women with infants, Miller said. The girls were lined up along a blackboard and their feet were bound, he said.
A teacher called police around 10:30 a.m. and reported that a gunman was holding students hostage.
Roberts apparently called his wife from a cell phone at around 11 a.m., saying he was "acting out in revenge for something that happened 20 years ago," Miller said. "It seems as though he wanted to attack young, female victims."
Moments later, Roberts told a dispatcher he would open fire on the children if police didn't back away from the building. Within seconds, troopers heard gunfire in the building. When they got inside, they found him dead.
"It's obvious to us that this was a premeditated hostage scenario," Miller said. "I believe, based on what the investigators have so far, he intended not to walk out of there alive, but he also intended to kill innocent victims."
The school had about 25 to 30 students, ages six to 13, Miller said.
Lancaster County Coroner G. Gary Kirchner told The Associated Press early Monday afternoon that six people were killed. He later said he wasn't sure of the number.
Two hours after the shooting, about three dozen people in traditional Amish clothing, hats and bonnets stood near the small school building speaking to one another, several young people and authorities.
The school is among farmlands just outside Nickel Mines, a tiny village about 55 miles west of Philadelphia. The shooter lives in nearby Bart, Pa., according to WGAL-TV.
Numbering about 180,000, the Amish, have settlements in 25 states and Ontario with 70 percent of the population in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. They practice a form of Christianity that emphasizes piety, modesty and community derived from a literal reading of the Bible.
Because of their belief in separating their communities from the outside world, which they consider corrupting, they have strict regulations over societal customs. They tend to dress in simple, mostly dark clothes with little ornamentation, speak in a German dialect, and often shun technological innovation they deem corrosive to their way of life, including electricity, television, automobiles, telephones and tractors.
The Amish run their own schools, but most communities educate their children only through the eighth grade, which American students reach at about 13-years-old. U.S. courts have exempted the Amish and other groups from requiring further education on the grounds of religious freedom.
It was the third small community to be shocked by a deadly school shootings in just the past week.
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.
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