BAILEY, Colo. (AP) – He wore a hooded sweat shirt and carried a camouflage backpack. Some students saw him but no one knew the man walking through the close-knit high school on Wednesday.

He entered a classroom, fired a gun and lined the frightened students up against the blackboard, 16-year-old Cassidy Grigg told his father.

“He hand-picked the ones he wanted to get out,” Tom Grigg said, recounting his son’s description. He told six girls to stay.

More than four hours later, authorities said, one of the girls was dead and the gunman took his own life as a SWAT team moved in. Another girl escaped unharmed; four others had been released earlier.

Authorities said they did not know who the gunman was or what triggered the standoff with deputies at the 460-student Platte Canyon High School, nestled in the mountains about 35 miles southwest of Denver.

“I don’t know why he wanted to do this,” a shaken Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said after the standoff ended.

Classrooms were locked down and deputies rushed to the scene after the school intercom announced “code white.” The gunman was cornered in a second-floor classroom with his hostages, authorities said, while other students were shepherded to safety from the high school and the adjacent Fitzsimmons Middle School.

The sheriff said the gunman threatened the girls throughout the ordeal, and authorities decided to enter the school after the man cut off negotiations and set a deadline.

“It was then decided that a tactical solution needed to be done in an effort to save the two hostages,” the Wegener said, his voice breaking.

Students described a chaotic scene inside. Ani-Rae Lovell said everyone was told to stay in their classrooms.

“It took about 25 minutes before someone opened the door, we didn’t know who it was,” she said. “It was a Park County sheriff.”

Cassidy Grigg told his father the gunman had ordered him to leave the classroom but he resisted, saying he wanted to remain with the girls.

“The guy flipped him around and put the gun in his face and said, ‘It would be in your best interest to leave,”‘ Grigg said.

The lines of students fleeing the schools and the frantic parents scrambling to find their loved ones reminded many of the scene at Columbine High School in 1999, where two students killed 13 people before taking their own lives. The suburban Denver school is less than an hour from Bailey.

Sherry Husen, whose son plays on the high school football team, said her family moved to Bailey, a town of about 5,500 people, about 14 years ago. It has become largely a bedroom community for commuters who work in Denver.

“We moved up here for the mountain solitude, and I just never thought this would happen in this school, but it happens everywhere,” Husen said.



Associated Press writers Pat Graham, Don Mitchell, Jon Sarche, Catherine Tsai, Judith Kohler, Sandy Shore, P. Solomon Banda, Robert Weller and Dan Elliott and photographer David Zalubowski contributed to this report.



On the Net:

High school site: http://plattechs.tripod.com/index.htm


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