School Shootings In Pa. Shock Amish

Milk truck driver wounds 7 girls, killing 4

Gunman kills self as police near school

`He was angry with life, angry with God'

October 03, 2006|By Lynn Anderson, Matthew Hay Brown, Justin Fenton and Julie Scharper | Lynn Anderson, Matthew Hay Brown, Justin Fenton and Julie Scharper,Sun Reporters


A gunman carrying 600 rounds of ammunition burst into a one-room Amish schoolhouse yesterday, ordered out the boys and several women, bound the girls and shot 11 of them execution-style, killing at least four.

Then the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, took his own life as Pennsylvania State Police approached the school, where he had barricaded himself.

The violence, unprecedented in Lancaster County's Pennsylvania Dutch Country, brought police cruisers to roads usually traveled by horse-drawn buggies, news helicopters circling overhead, and armed officers to emerald fields where they searched for dead or injured children.

A 10-year-old girl escaped unscathed by slipping out of a window as the boys fled, according to her family.

Police said Roberts, a 32-year-old milk truck driver, walked his three children to the bus stop earlier in the morning. Then he drove to the school shortly after 10 a.m., his borrowed pickup truck loaded with three guns, two knives, a stun gun and ammunition, as well as a change of clothes, building tools and lumber for a barricade.

After blocking the door with two-by-fours he attached to the frame, he bound the girls' feet with wire or plastic ties, lined them up against the blackboard, and then shot them, one by one, with a semiautomatic pistol.

`Still in shock'

"Most of the people I've seen or talked to are still in shock," said Elmer Kauffman, a 33-year-old Amish man whose 8-year-old niece was shot by Roberts and was recovering from wounds after being flown by helicopter to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "It just hasn't registered. I never thought that something like this would happen here."

Police investigating the case said Roberts left suicide notes and called his wife, Marie, just before he began shooting to tell her that he wouldn't be coming home. Authorities believe Roberts, who was not Amish, was seeking revenge for something that happened several decades ago and that he intentionally targeted girls, said state police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller.

"He was angry, he was angry with life, he was angry with God," said Miller. Investigators were looking into past incidents that might have triggered Roberts' onslaught, including the death of one of his children several years ago.

Roberts bought the firearms - a 30.06 Ruger rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a 9 mm Springfield semiautomatic pistol - at a gunshop within five miles of his home, police said.

Two of the girls died at the scene, one in the arms of a state trooper. The other nine girls were transported to area hospitals, and one was pronounced dead upon arrival.

A 13-year-old girl who was in surgery at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for more than four hours was upgraded last night to serious condition, said hospital spokesman Sean Young. She said the girl had had "nonverbal communication" with her family.

An 8-year-old girl was treated at the hospital's shock trauma center, Young said. She and a 6-year- old girl were in critical condition yesterday evening. The grandfather of the 6-year-old asked that people of all faiths pray for the children, Young said.

One of the girls at Hershey died last night, Miller said.

The state of Maryland sent a helicopter to transport the wounded from the site of the shootings, about 25 miles north of the Mason-Dixon line.

The girls' injuries were described as "grave," and most had been shot in the head at point-blank range, Miller said.

"It would be a miracle if there was no further loss of life," he said.

The names of the girls had not been released last night, and authorities were still working with Amish families, who do not take photographs of their children, to confirm the identities of the dead and wounded.

Police said they had offered to fly the victims' families to hospitals in Philadelphia and Delaware, but that their religious beliefs prevented them from flying. Instead, ground transport was being arranged.

The shootings - and then the emergency workers, police and reporters who followed - broke the usual quiet of this farming community shared by Amish and Mennonites.

Barefoot boys and young men on foot-powered scooters darted around black, horse-drawn buggies on the asphalt roads. The Nickel Mine Coach Shop, with wagon wheels lined up along its front wall, advertised a used carriage for sale.

In the distance, cows and horses grazed in green fields dotted with red silos. White sheets and black trousers hung yesterday from clotheslines strung between sturdy wooden houses. Several yards had wooden chicken coops; one held a series of elevated beehives.

Yesterday afternoon, three boys, all under age 10, burst out of one house at the sound of a television news helicopter overhead. They pointed to the sky and shouted.

"I think it's actually pretty traumatic," said Valerie Yoder, a Mennonite who lives on White Oak Road where the schoolhouse is located. "We're not used to all the cameras and everything."

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