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Teen takes hostages at school

Incident at the campus in Northern California ends with the arrest of a 17-year-old student. Although shots are fired, no one is injured.

September 29, 2007|Eric Bailey | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO -- A 17-year-old boy who had recently broken up with his girlfriend walked onto an Oroville, Calif., high school campus with a handgun Friday, held students hostage in a band room and fired shots into the ceiling before surrendering to police.

No one was wounded during the 90-minute siege at Las Plumas High School, as law officers conducting tense negotiations over a cellphone finally persuaded the youth to surrender.

"Thank God for a happy ending," said Butte County Sheriff Perry Reniff. "We've seen a lot of these tragedies throughout the United States, and we're very pleased today this had a happy ending."

A teacher spotted the student walking onto campus about 9 a.m. smoking a cigarette and holding a handgun, school officials said.

Principal Sandy Dovell and a security aide found the youth in the band room but said they backed off when he leveled the .22-caliber pistol at them.

As they ducked out of the classroom, a shot was fired, Dovell said.

Witnesses reported that several students fled screaming in the initial moments of the hostage drama. The gunman let a few who remained call their parents, and then let most of them go free one by one.

But three classmates were held hostage for more than an hour as the youth negotiated with deputies.

Just before the gunman surrendered about 10:30 a.m., he released two female students from the band room and fired the handgun twice more into the ceiling.

Law enforcement officers from around the region poured into the area, as classrooms on the 1,500-student campus were locked down by fearful teachers and SWAT personnel positioned themselves around the band room.

Several other schools in the Oroville area, 75 miles north of Sacramento, were also locked down as a precaution.

Authorities said the teen, a junior at the high school, was an average student with no record of trouble with the law.

His stepfather told the Chico Enterprise-Record that he may have been upset over the breakup a few days before with a girlfriend.

"I know he had been in a little trouble in school, but I've never seen anything like this," the stepfather told the newspaper.


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