- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

BAILEY, Colo. (AP) — A gunman took six girls hostage at the high school in this mountain town yesterday, using them as human shields for hours before he fatally wounded a girl and then killed himself as a SWAT team moved in, authorities said.

The gunman, thought to be age 30 to 50, was cornered with the hostages in a second-floor classroom. He released four of them, one by one.

Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said authorities entered the school to save the two remaining hostages after the suspect cut off negotiations and set a deadline. He said the gunman had threatened the girls throughout the four-hour ordeal and had shielded himself with the hostages.

The suspect was not identified, and the sheriff was at a loss to explain a motive.

“I don’t know why he wanted to do this,” Sheriff Wegener said, his voice breaking.

The wounded girl was taken to a Denver hospital in critical condition, but was declared dead, a hospital spokeswoman said. She did not release the girl’s name.

The last hostage was unharmed and talking with authorities.

After the suspect entered the building, hundreds of students at Platte Canyon High School were evacuated in a scene that recalled the horror at Columbine High School, just a short drive away.

Students said the bearded suspect wore a dark blue hooded sweatshirt and had a camouflage backpack. The sheriff said the man threatened to set off a bomb he claimed to have in the backpack. The man was also toting a handgun.

Authorities had what they described as “sporadic” negotiations with the suspect and urged him to contact them for more discussion. Officers eventually crept close to the building, and there were reports of an explosion inside.

The sight of students fleeing the high school in long lines and of frantic parents scrambling to find their children evoked memories of the 1999 attack on Columbine, where two students killed 13 persons before committing suicide.

Students described a chaotic scene inside after the intercom announced “Code White,” and everyone was told to stay in their classrooms.

The high school and a nearby middle school were soon evacuated. Jefferson County authorities — who also handled the attack at Columbine — sent a bomb squad and SWAT team to the high school.

“I’m just terrified. I’m terrified,” said Sherry Husen, whose son plays on the high school football team and was told not to return to school from his part-time job. “I know so many kids in that school.”

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