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Spokane Teen Wounded After Holding Classroom Hostage

By Sarah Kershaw

The New York Times -- A 17-year-old student at a high school in Spokane, Wash., was shot by the police Monday after firing a gun and barricading himself in a sci ence classroom with three other students and a teacher, the authorities said.

The teenager, a junior at Lewis and Clark High School near downtown Spokane, was in surgery late Monday with his condition listed as “life threatening.”

His identity was withheld because of his age.

The student entered the school, which has no metal detectors, with a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol that investigators believe he obtained at home, Spokane Police Chief Roger Bragdon said.

The police received a 911 call at 11:10 a.m. reporting that an agitated student in a third-floor classroom had fired a gun, Bragdon said in an interview. Officers, including a SWAT team and negotiators arrived by 11:25 a.m. and school officials evacuated 2,000 students using a fire alarm. At some point before the 90-minute standoff, the three other students and the teacher had escaped the classroom without the authorities knowing, Bragdon said.

He said the armed student was shot by three officers after he made a “threatening gesture.”

The student was standing atop a filing cabinet in the classroom, which he had used to block the door, and was speaking to officers through a crack in the door when he pulled out the pistol, Bragdon said.

“The officers were threatened, by person with a handgun who had already fired one shot, and they did what they had to do,” he said. “Our problem was that we thought he had hostages, we were never able to confirm that he was alone. The entire time we were worried about hostages.”

The police officers had taken special training called “active shooter response” in the aftermath of the Columbine, Colo., shootings.

Investigators said the student’s motive was still unclear.

The superintendent of Spokane Public Schools, Brian Benzel, speaking at a televised news conference outside the school, praised the police and school’s response.

“Unfortunately we have weapons in our society,” he said. “We have prepared ourselves to deal with that. I think today’s incident demonstrated the effectiveness.”

Benzel said the school district had not ruled out the use of metal detectors and would not make a decision “until we have an opportunity to review with the police department and others how things went today.”

He said school officials had scheduled a meeting Monday night to provide a “crisis team” for any parents or students feeling distraught.