US classroom hostage-taker dies


Student Austin Biehl talks about being taken hostage by a classmate at Marinette High School, Wisconsin (AP)

The teenage gunman who shot himself after holding his teacher and two dozen classmates hostage at his US high school has died.

The motivation behind 15-year-old Samual Hengel’s actions at Marinette High School in Wisconsin remained unclear.

Students who were in the room described how they put their captor at ease, even to the point of laughter, by engaging him in casual conversation about hunting, fishing, movies and music.

All the hostages escaped unharmed from Monday’s stand-off which lasted about four hours.

Hengel shot himself after officers, fearing the worst, broke down the door to the classroom where they were being held and rushed at Hengel. He dropped his gun, picked up the one on the podium and pointed it at his head, classmate Austin Biehl said. An officer grabbed his arm just as he squeezed the trigger, but it was too late to save him.

An autopsy was pending.

The school remained closed on Tuesday, and grief counsellors were available for distraught students. District officials planned to reopen the building for classes on Wednesday.

Safety guidelines at the school, which does not have metal detectors, will be reviewed, Superintendent Tim Baneck said.

District Attorney Allen Brey promised to make public a full report on the investigation, but it could be weeks or months away.

“We may not truly know what happened,” Brey said. Hengel was “the one person who could answer the why question.”

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