November 30, 2010 / 12:55 AM / 9 years ago

Wisconsin hostage taker who shot self dies

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - The Wisconsin high school student who shot himself after holding classmates and their teacher hostage died on Tuesday, authorities said.

A display board states that the Marinette High School is closed, following the hostage situation in Marinette, Wisconsin November 29, 2010. A 15-year-old boy took 23 of his classmates and a teacher hostage in a classroom at the small-town Wisconsin high school on Monday, shooting himself as police broke in. The 24 hostages were released unharmed from the classroom at Marinette High School and the suspect, identified by authorities only as a 15-year-old sophomore, was rushed to a local hospital, Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik said. REUTERS/Matthew Becker

Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik identified the hostage taker as 15-year-old Samuel Hengel, of Porterfield, who died in a hospital from the self-inflicted wound.

Fellow students at Marinette High School in northern Wisconsin and local authorities said they were baffled by Monday’s actions by the sophomore, who was known as an outdoorsman who liked to hunt and fish.

Hengel made no demands during the six-hour standoff in which he was armed with two handguns, and did not harm any of his 23 fellow students or the teacher.

“As far as we’ve gathered to this point there was nothing specific identified by the hostage taker as far as his reasoning behind holding the children in the classroom,” Skorik told reporters.

Skorik described Hengel as well liked and “even keeled.” A fellow student, Zach Campbell, said the hostage taker — whom he called “Sam” — betrayed no signs of trouble previously.

Campbell described the ordeal as hours of talking with Hengel, and credited another quick-thinking student with breaking a tense moment by asking: “‘How’s hunting going?’”

“He (the hostage taker) didn’t seem like he wanted to hurt anyone. He may have wanted to commit suicide, I don’t know,” Campbell told reporters afterward.

The class was watching a film when Hengel fired a shot into the projector, then another shot into a wall near the teacher, Valerie Burd, Campbell said. Hengel collected all the students’ cell phones, breaking some that rang.

A parent of one of the students called the school when she could not reach her daughter, and Principal Corry Lambie went to check on the classroom. Hengel pointed a gun at Lambie and told him to leave, Lambie said.

The standoff dragged on, but police broke into the basement classroom when shots were heard inside, and Hengel shot himself.

Skorik credited the teacher for the outcome, which could have been worse given that the boy had extra ammunition in a duffel bag and in his pockets.

“The teacher was nothing short of heroic. She kept a very cool head. She was able to keep the suspect as calm as possible,” Skorik said.

The school was closed on Tuesday, with counselors attending to students and their families.

Reporting by John Rondy and Andrew Stern, editing by Greg McCune

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