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Gunman in custody after shots fired at Northern California high school

Saturday, September 29, 2007

OROVILLE, Calif. -- A student gunman held a high school drama class hostage Friday, firing shots and holding three of the students for more than an hour before surrendering, authorities said. No one was hurt.

Police would not say what the 17-year-old's motive was, but several students said he was distraught over a breakup with his girlfriend.

The gunman took about 30 students and a substitute teacher hostage in a band room at Las Plumas High School. He eventually released all of them except for three girls, Capt. Jerry Smith of the Butte County Sheriff's Department said.

Turbo Her, an 18-year-old senior who was in the class, said the boy told students he did not want to hurt them and just needed to hide out for a bit.

At least two students talked with family members by cell phone while they were being held hostage, Lt. Al Smith said.

Her said that after about 30 minutes, the gunman said that "anyone who's scared can leave," and about 25 students and the teacher left. Sheriff's officials said three remaining hostages did not stay there voluntarily, but they did not know why the gunman chose them to remain.

Smith said the gunman's only demand to deputies during the standoff was that they "back off." He asked for cigarettes, but Smith said he did not know whether the boy was given any.

Six schools in the Oroville Union High School District were locked down while a deputy talked to the hostile student on a cell phone.

"We made him realize that the best thing for him and everyone concerned was to release the remaining three hostages," Smith said.

Another student, Candace Carey, 18, said she was in algebra class next door to the drama classroom where students were taken hostage. She said she and her classmates crawled out a window to flee.

The boy's name was not released because of his age. Smith said he was a student at the school.

Deputies took the boy for questioning after he gave up and placed him in custody at Butte County juvenile hall, where he would remain at least until his first court appearance, authorities said.

Parents were directed to an Oroville church to be reunited with their children, and cars were backed up for half a mile leading to the church. Friday night's high school football game was canceled.

Oroville is 80 miles north of Sacramento.


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