Four Wounded in Fort Gibson Shooting
Monday, December 6th 1999, 12:00 am
News On 6
FORT GIBSON, Okla. (AP) -- A frosty morning wait outside a rural middle school turned into a scene of bloodshed Monday when a seventh-grader with a 9mm handgun opened fire, wounding four of his schoolmates. The 13-year-old dropped the gun as a science teacher who doubles as a safety officer approached him, police Chief Richard Slader said.
Muskogee County Sheriff's Deputy Terry Cragg said the weapon had been emptied, but he didn't know how many shots were fired. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is tracing the gun's registration. The injured were taken to hospitals in nearby Muskogee and Tulsa. None of the injuries appeared life threatening.
A fifth student incurred bumps and bruises, officials said. Authorities and the boy's attorney wouldn't release his name because of his age and because charges had not been filed by prosecutors. But schoolmates, including 13-year-olds Max Chrisman and Shaila Benjamin, identified the boy as Seth Trickey.
Max said the boy "looked just like he always did. He didn'tlook any different. He pulled out a gun and just started shooting." "We were talking and I was just looking around. I looked up and I saw Seth reach into something and pull a gun out," Shaila said. She said he began to shoot over their heads and she ducked inside the building. "He was a straight-A student. He used to ride my bus. He was quite popular."
"He doesn't even know who it was he shot," said Cragg, who spoke to the boy later at the county jail. "There was not a hate thing. I asked him why, he said, `I don't know.' " "He's just a frightened young man," said attorney Drew Wilcoxen. He said he couldn't reveal anything about their conversations. He also said he expected a psychological examination to be required.
"He is arrested and is in custody," District Attorney John David Luton said. Because of the boy's age, Luton wouldn't release his name nor discuss what happened in a short detention hearing.Luton said prosecutors were looking at possible charges of shooting with intent to kill. "He's being held on complaints of students being shot at the Fort Gibson Middle School," Luton said.
Slader said police don't have a motive and the student didn't leave any notes. He said they are still trying to determine if the boy knew the people he was shooting at. The father of shooting victim Brad Schindel said his son reported seeing the boy place a backpack on the ground, draw a gun and start firing. "He did not say anything or make any accusations," Richard Schindel said, relaying what his son told an ATF agent about the shooter. "All the kids started running. They ran behind the school. It was only at that time my son realized he had been shot when one of his friends told him he had been shot. He looked down and saw the blood dripping from both his hands."
Brad received gunshots to the upper part of one arm and near the elbow of the other. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery. Richard Schindel said his son considered the alleged shooter a friend last year but had not spent time with him this year. "He keeps telling me he doesn't understand why he'd do it. That he's (the shooter) fairly well liked, a nice kid." "He totally believes it was random."
The boy's parents were at the courthouse and have refused police requests to interview their son, Luton said. Gunfire broke out around 7:45 a.m. outside Fort Gibson Middle School as students were waiting for the start of class. Children screamed. School officials, who had undergone training in the aftermath of the Columbine, Colo., school massacre, rushed the students to the safety of the cafeteria.
Some students thought the popping came from fireworks left from Fort Gibson's appearance in the state 4A high school football championship, a game Fort Gibson lost 46-0 Saturday. "We heard one girl screaming. We saw smoke coming from the cement," said eighth-grader Greg Pruitt, who heard the shots while walking on the other side of building from where the shooting took place.
The shooter was subdued by science teacher Ronnie Holuby, who also serves as the school's safety officer, Superintendent Steve Wilmoth said. Holuby grabbed the arms of the boy and pinned him against a brick wall. The boy surrendered without a struggle, officials said. Holuby's wife, Carla, said her husband had been teaching at the school for 15 years. She said he wasn't ready to talk.
Later Monday, the small slender boy was led into a Muskogee County courtroom between two deputies, keeping his head down. He was escorted out aback way. Several Fort Gibson students stood outside the courtroom. "I'm just here to try to figure out why," said 13-year-oldKanjowah Bowley, an eighth-grader. "Some people say he's crazy, but he's really not. He comes from a really good family." She said she knew the shooter because Fort Gibson is such a small school. "He seemed like a really nice person," 13-year-old Justine Hurst said outside the school. "He had a lot of friends."
President Clinton told reporters in Washington, D.C., that investigators from the FBI and ATF were on the scene. "Our prayers are with each of the children and their families," Clinton said. "Right now there are no fatalities, only people who are wounded, and we hope it will stay that way." Responding to incidents of school violence across the nation, the district had beefed up security, including installing surveillance cameras at the high school, Wilmoth said. The middle school was scheduled to receive cameras next. "I'm not sure a school district can ever make it totally safe," Wilmoth said. "These things are going to happen no matter what you do."
Wilmoth described Fort Gibson as "a close-knit, very religious community." The town of about 3,500 is about 50 miles southeast of Tulsa. About 450 students attend the middle school. Authorities were not aware of any previous trouble involving the shooter. They did not know who the gun was registered to. Fort Gibson police received search warrants to search lockers at the middle school.
Brad Schindel, 12, was in fair condition at Tulsa Regional
Medical Center. Savana Knowles, 12, was in fair condition at St.Francis Hospital in Tulsa with a wound to the cheek, a spokeswoman said. At Muskogee Regional Medical Center, two 13-year-old boys were listed in good condition. Cody Chronister was shot in the right forearm, and Billy Railey underwent surgery for a wound to his right leg.
The alleged shooter belonged to a teen Christian group and other school organizations, students said. Several said he had lots of friends. A school official said all of the district's 1,850 students were sent home for the day. School was planned again Tuesday.
Gov. Frank Keating said the shooting must serve as a wake-up call for Oklahoma's educators, parents, community and religious leaders to address the root cause of such violence. "There is something horribly wrong when too many young people do not value human life," Keating said. "These tragic incidents of school violence point to a very real sickness, and it is time for us to get serious about finding a cure and not simply tending to the symptoms