© 2024
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Heroic' Teacher Hailed At Wisconsin School Where Student Took Hostages

Details are emerging about the terrifying incident yesterday at a high school in Marinette, WI, where a 15-year-old student armed with at least two handguns held 23 classmates and a teacher hostage for nearly five hours before shooting himself as police came in.

None of the hostages were injured. The young gunman is hospitalized with potentially life-threatening injuries, the Associated Press reports. ( Update at 1:25 p.m. ET: The the gunman, now identified by the newspaper as Sam Hengel, has died.)

According to Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel, Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik says the social studies teacher (since identified by the Green Bay Press Gazette as Valerie Burd) "was nothing short of heroic. She kept a very cool head and kept the suspect as calm as possible." The boy had allowed her to act as a liaison with authorities.

On CBS News' The Early Showtoday, one of the hostages said it was a "very traumatizing event." Fifteen-year-old Zach Campbell said the gunman (who he called "Sam") most likely "didn't really want to hurt anybody." But, Campbell added, he and others in the room were "just hoping to get out alive."

Campbell said he was released by the gunman after asking to go to the bathroom:

Authorities haven't released the gunman's name. A search of "#marinette" on Twitter shows that many from the Marinette area are posting thoughts and prayers -- and words of praise for Burd.

Update at 11:25 a.m. ET. The Press Gazette adds more about the teacher's actions:

"The teacher was nothing short of heroic," Skorik said. "I think she kept a very cool head. She was able to keep the suspect as calm as possible. I heard that she took the responsibility of trying to assure the other students they were going to be OK. We really give that teacher a lot of credit for being able to keep a cool head under a stressful situation."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.