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15-Year-Old Who Held Classroom Hostage Dies
November 30, 2010 10:06 PM   Subscribe

Sam Hengel, a 15-year-old student at Marinette High School in Wisconsin, held a classroom of 23 students and a teacher hostage on Monday, November 28th. Without making any demands from police, Hengel released the hostages and shot himself. Early Tuesday morning, Hengel died in the hospital. (1, 2)

The strange thing is that his friends said he showed no warning signs and had plenty of friends. His family has made a statement to the public.

"He was a good student; he wasn't talkative in high school. He never seemed like he would do this sort of thing."
posted by MHPlost (95 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
*Monday, November 29th

Whoops.
posted by MHPlost at 10:07 PM on November 30, 2010


Weird.
posted by fantodstic at 10:12 PM on November 30, 2010


.

I share his family's hope that the 'why' comes to light.
posted by Chipmazing at 10:29 PM on November 30, 2010


Suicide has never been dealt with except as a social phenomenon. On the contrary, we are concerned here, at the outset, with the relationship between individual thought and suicide. An act like this is prepared within the silence of the heart, as is a great work of art. The man himself is ignorant of it. One evening he pulls the trigger or jumps. Of an apartment-building manager who had killed himself I was told that he had lost his daughter five years before, that he had changed greatly since, and that that experience had "undermined" him. A more exact word cannot be imagined. Beginning to think is beginning to be undermined. Society has but little connection with such beginnings. The worm is in man's heart. That is where it must be sought. One must follow and understand this fatal game that leads from lucidity in the face of existence to flight from light.

There are many causes for a suicide, and generally the most obvious ones were not the most powerful. Rarely is suicide committed (yet the hypothesis is not excluded) through reflection. What sets off the crisis is almost al- ways unverifiable. Newspapers often speak of "personal sorrows" or of "incurable illness." These explanations are plausible. But one would have to know whether a friend of the desperate man had not that very day ad- dressed him indifferently. He is the guilty one. For that is enough to precipitate all the rancors and all the bore- dom still in suspension.

But if it is hard to fix the precise instant, the subtle step when the mind opted for death, it is easier to deduce from the act itself the consequences it implies. In a sense, and as in melodrama, killing yourself amounts to confessing. It is confessing that life is too much for you or that you do not understand it. Let's not go too far in such analogies, however, but rather return to everyday words. It is merely confessing that that "is not worth the trouble." Living, naturally, is never easy. You continue making the gestures commanded by existence, for many reasons, the first of which is habit. Dying voluntarily implies that you have recognized, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that habit, the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering. What, then, is that incalculable feeling that deprives the mind of the sleep necessary to life? A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity. All healthy men having thought of their own suicide, it can be seen, without further explanation, that there is a direct connection between this feeling and the longing for death.
- Albert Camus

posted by phrontist at 10:37 PM on November 30, 2010 [67 favorites]


.
posted by hermitosis at 10:47 PM on November 30, 2010


.
posted by clavdivs at 10:54 PM on November 30, 2010


I don't know if any answer to "why" will be remotely palliative. Sometimes the gaping hole can't be reconciled at all but by time flowing and the riverbanks gradually changing.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:56 PM on November 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


I read about the siege yesterday...when I read this post, I felt a tinge of extreme joy at the outcome, that only one student died. Now I'm feeling bad about feeling joy.

.
posted by Jimbob at 11:01 PM on November 30, 2010


.
posted by jtron at 11:09 PM on November 30, 2010


Picture.
posted by mediareport at 11:18 PM on November 30, 2010


.
posted by brundlefly at 11:27 PM on November 30, 2010


Y'know, nothing (other than, y'know, a 15-year-old kid shooting himself), nothing here hurts as much as this: "This article may not meet the notability guideline for biographies." 'Cause, goddamn.

Also, it was sad about Stephen King withdrawing Rage from publication. It was one of the clearer, more human things he ever wrote.
posted by longtime_lurker at 11:30 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I don't know if any answer to "why" will be remotely palliative. Sometimes the gaping hole can't be reconciled at all but by time flowing and the riverbanks gradually changing."

I'm not entirely sure that it is possible to get over having your child die in these circumstances. There's always going to be a huge scar.
posted by jaduncan at 11:33 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:43 PM on November 30, 2010


Also, it was sad about Stephen King withdrawing Rage from publication. It was one of the clearer, more human things he ever wrote.

He did? What the hell?
posted by Jimbob at 11:44 PM on November 30, 2010


There's always going to be a huge scar.

our scars define us
posted by philip-random at 11:46 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, mediareport.

I've got above average gaydar and conmandar and crazydar and many other *.dars.

That kid does not it the slightest bit look troubled. Normal weight. Handsome. Great smile. I wonder how old the photo is... what went wrong?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:48 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm curious as to how he was able to lay his hands on 2 semiotic handguns. Are they commonly used for hunting? (the article says he liked hunting).

It didn't seem like he wanted to hurt anyone else. So sad.
.
posted by bluefly at 12:05 AM on December 1, 2010


*semiautomatic handguns (not sure what a semiotic gun would look like)
posted by bluefly at 12:06 AM on December 1, 2010 [15 favorites]


just a few months ago, emergency management officials held a simulated shooting exercise at the marionette high school in preparation for such an event. many high schools across the nation are holding similar exercises. today the same officials are crediting the simulation for their "success" in dealing with this situation. but it makes me wonder if the simulation might have been the stimulus of the event.
posted by kitchenrat at 12:07 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, it was sad about Stephen King withdrawing Rage from publication. It was one of the clearer, more human things he ever wrote.

He did? What the hell?
posted by Jimbob


Yep, he did, Jimbob. I re-read it every so often. It's even more chilling now, all these years later, since school shootings have become more... I hesitate to say popular or publicised. I need a word that is in the middle of those.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:13 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:15 AM on December 1, 2010


(not sure what a semiotic gun would look like)

stop it!

tho Semiotic Handgun is a helluva name for a band.
posted by philip-random at 12:27 AM on December 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


From this:

Former teacher Keith Schroeder told one media outlet the gunman was having problems at school, but he would not elaborate.
posted by anniecat at 12:34 AM on December 1, 2010


I wonder how old the photo is... what went wrong?

There are ~ 21 million teenagers in America. When you consider what high school is like, the changes of adolescence, availability of guns, and the impulsive actions that teens are prone to, it's amazing that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often. At least this poor kid showed the restraint not to harm anyone else.
posted by benzenedream at 1:05 AM on December 1, 2010


Benzenedream -- a friend is an instructor in Los Angeles and says that exact same thing... "it's amazing that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often." The pressures on children, both internally, at the family level, and at the larger social level.

Further, intensifying pressures on school budgets are taking away the very programmes that students most enjoy -- sports, art, theatre. The very places they can healthily express and differentiate themselves without adult themes of sex and violence.

It is amazing that it doesn't happen more often... I suppose we have an army of overworked, unpaid teachers who maintain the same level of care and connection for the kids to the point of financial and emotional exhaustion.
posted by nickrussell at 2:51 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


"...army of overworked, UNDERpaid teachers TO THANK..."

(although I do know some teachers that feel unpaid...)
posted by nickrussell at 2:52 AM on December 1, 2010


This story also made me think of Stephen King's Rage. Glad I'm not the only one. Also, very glad that it looks like plenty of people have read it. Very important story, that one.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 4:28 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would you (and others) like me to make a "dot-free" thread for actual discussion of this event? I kinda find this particular shooting fascinating, precisely because he only killed himself; and would find it interesting to really talk about it and its peripherals, rather than merely commemorate.

I was just astounded that you can't see any better outcome than this lad shooting himself. Like, perhaps he could have been talked into surrender, perhaps? I'm not saying there's anyone to blame but himself, and I'm sure the police did all they could to open negotations - but if you can't see why this kid deserves at least some sympathy, I really do fear for your humanity.

If you actually read the second article linked, one of the hostages mentions that he never actually pointed a gun at another human being. No threats were made. He looked "depressed". This was a suicide in a very meaningful sense. It was a tragic, public suicide. Where's your humanity?
posted by Ted Maul at 4:39 AM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well pla what do you want to discuss? A kid killed himself. Was that always part of his plan, or did he kill himself because he couldn't kill his classmates, or did he not even have a plan? We'll never know. Presumably, a whole cavalcade of crappy luck and bad decisions preceded this, but we'll never know the details. All we know is he's dead, whoever he was, and there's no reaching him. This number has been disconnected. He'll never be anything other than a memory. It's a shit situation.
posted by Ritchie at 4:44 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


An officer grabbed his arm just as he squeezed the trigger, but it was too late to save him.
posted by mediareport at 4:58 AM on December 1, 2010


Skorik told reporters that as the incident drew to a close, the suspect received a call and became "agitated." He did not know who had called him.
posted by mediareport at 4:59 AM on December 1, 2010


This is far from the "best possible outcome."

The one-step-better outcome is that he doesn't shoot himself, surrenders to the authorities, and is able to get help.

One step beyond that is that he not only gets help, but learns from the situation, and dedicates his life to helping others who might have otherwise followed the same path he did. Others get help.

Best possible outcome? Kids lead normal lives, have supportive friends, family, and communities, and nothing noteworthy enough to make headlines happens.
posted by explosion at 5:00 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I wasn't scared," Austin said. "It was Sam. You could tell by the way he walked in, the way he was holding the gun, nothing was gonna happen. He was too calm handling the gun. He didn't know what he was doing. He had nothing planned."

...Austin said he doesn't hold a grudge against Sam. In fact, he wanted to go visit him in the hospital.

posted by mediareport at 5:09 AM on December 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Suicide is a pretty terrifying prospect even if you want it. The kid probably did it like this in order to work himself up to it.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:20 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just how all of the students, who didn't show up for their seventh-hour classes, were not missed until half an hour after school ended for the day or how the initial gunshots were not heard was not explained by authorities Tuesday.
posted by mediareport at 5:23 AM on December 1, 2010


.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:25 AM on December 1, 2010


He's (was) 15. There are some kids at 15 that go through such changes that communicating with them is like trying to talk to a werewolf mid-morph. Add any other stress to being 15 ? I agree it's a wonder it doesn't happen mre often. It is soo sad that he had access to guns.

deepest condolences to his family.
posted by readery at 5:27 AM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:32 AM on December 1, 2010


Situations like this remind me that so little actual knowledge of another human being is necessary to maintain the simulation of smooth and seemingly normal relationships with family, friends, and classmates. You can be utterly, hopelessly tormented by inner demons, and so long as you live by the numbers, no one will ever know. Nor will they pry, because most other people just don't want to know if you're troubled. Go hunting, get good grades, smile, make small talk - to everyone else, you're perfectly normal and well-adjusted. It's easy. And when you can't take it anymore, and leave in a violent fashion, everyone around you will wonder why you did it. They thought they knew you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:37 AM on December 1, 2010 [35 favorites]


Somebody knows why this happened but they're sure as hell not going to come forward unless they have to.

That's the problem with being a good pretender, you're even less likely to get noticed and get help. A shame.
posted by dickasso at 5:38 AM on December 1, 2010


I have a lot of sympathy for the officer who was almost fast enough to stop Hengel from shooting himself. That's got to be awful to live with. I know I would be thinking What if I was just a little bit faster? Maybe I could have stopped him.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:41 AM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Skorik told reporters that as the incident drew to a close, the suspect received a call and became "agitated." He did not know who had called him..

A well liked student, in good standing, who wasn't being bullied, snapped. Which means he was under a lot of emotional and/or mental stress. It would be interesting to hear what his parents have to say about that.
posted by nomadicink at 5:52 AM on December 1, 2010


Also, it was sad about Stephen King withdrawing Rage from publication. It was one of the clearer, more human things he ever wrote.

Yeah, that's the first thing I thought of, too. It's weird that King seems creeped out by it in light of school shootings; when I read it as a angry-souled teenager, I actually found it incredibly comforting. I felt similarly comforted by St. Swithin's Day, a couple years later.

One of the reasons I love (love, love) the It Gets Better project is that it involves adults who've been through a really bad place telling younger folk that there is indeed a way out that doesn't involve self-harm. I feel like books like Rage offer a similar thing to turbulent, violence-prone kids -- a sense that someone else at least knows what one's thinking. Of course these stories aren't didactic in a "oh hey bee tee dubs dont kill no one" kind of way; no one in Sam Hengel's frame of mind thinks that killing a bunch of people is actually a moral solution, just that it's an incredibly tempting and shockingly easy action.

Stories like Rage are so much less heartwarming than the It Gets Better videos, but I think just as useful to kids of a different mindset, who feel this deep-seated imperative to lash out and make other people suffer. I'm disappointed that King pulled it from publication; I don't think it encourages anyone toward violence so much as it makes angry youths feel like they're not alone, and that someone who can sympathize can go on to be a successful person on their own terms. Fiction's so good for that.

All of this is a little embarassing to talk about, as it requires remembering the kind of seething solitary ever-present wrath that only a fifteen-year-old boy is capable of, but man, I remember that. In no way do I condone or excuse Sam's actions, which have now likely created a ripple effect of trauma in his fellow-classmates and probable ratcheted-up tension in adults who think things like metal detectors or cops in schools could stop this kind of thing. But I do have sympathy, and wish that he could have found a better way out.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:57 AM on December 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


Ted Maul : I was just astounded that you can't see any better outcome than this lad shooting himself.

Ah, I see my error now - Sorry 'bout that. I agree... "Best" possible outcome, he changes his mind before taking the class hostage, goes to the school's counselors for some help, and everyone goes home happy at the end of the day.

I still consider this a whole hell of a lot better than either him injuring anyone else, or committing suicide-by-cop and putting that on some poor bastard just doing his job. Once he made the decision to take a room full of hostages, the "goodness" weighting of all possible outcomes shifted drastically.

But fair enough, if you took issue to my saying "best", I'll gladly withdraw that last clause of my post.


Ritchie : what do you want to discuss? A kid killed himself. Was that always part of his plan, or did he kill himself because he couldn't kill his classmates, or did he not even have a plan? We'll never know.

Yes, all of that. Why? Don't take my callousness for the outcome as a lack of concern overall - This situation bothers me rather a lot. It just makes no sense at all, from start to end, and I don't like that.

...And...


mediareport : Just how all of the students, who didn't show up for their seventh-hour classes, were not missed until half an hour after school ended for the day or how the initial gunshots were not heard was not explained by authorities Tuesday.

This. Schools have gotten quite a lot more restrictive since my youth, and I got busted a great many times simply for taking too long to get to my next class, never mind completely not showing up along with a good number of others. I could understand not noticing one person, perhaps, but when you have half a dozen people missing from multiple classes? Something doesn't add up. Not in any grand conspiracy sense, but in a "we don't know something that everyone involved does" sense.
posted by pla at 6:07 AM on December 1, 2010


Yes, all of that. Why?

Probably a familial or relationship problem.
posted by nomadicink at 6:10 AM on December 1, 2010


my oldest is 13 and i've learned that boys at this age are basically grown-up toddlers. for a child of 15 to die in such a way ...

damn.

i want to know whether he did indeed kill himself of if that officer's handling of the kid had anything to do with the firegun going off.
posted by liza at 6:16 AM on December 1, 2010


i want to know whether he did indeed kill himself of if that officer's handling of the kid had anything to do with the firegun going off.

The cops rushed the room after hearing multiple shots fired. The kid had a gun pointed at his head and a SWAT team member attempted to stop him by pulling his arm away. Could he have not rushed him and attempted to talk to the kid? Probably, but I'm not going to fault them for trying in that situation. Ultimately, the kid bears responsibility for his own choice and actions.
posted by nomadicink at 6:23 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I understand, liza, but I'm more curious about the reports of a phone call that agitated him at the end. And just to be clear, Sam's friend Austin was quoted in the 2nd link in the original post saying he was indeed scared for the first two hours, so take the "I wasn't scared" stuff in the later link with that in mind, I guess.
posted by mediareport at 6:31 AM on December 1, 2010


"the kid bears responsibility for his own choice and actions"

i take it you have no children in the 13-15 age range. SWAT teams make mistakes all the time. and believe it or not, a kid at 15 doesnt necessarily know all the consequences to their actions.

that's why i used the world "toddler". just as toddlers are learning the rules of gravity, speed and motion; teenagers are ethical and moral toddlers who are just learning how to navigate the rules and regulations of civil society.

you can't judge a 15 year-old the way you judge an adult.
posted by liza at 6:31 AM on December 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


I find it odd that nobody has considered that this good, upstanding student with private pain and no apparent motive may have been molested or raped.
posted by Malice at 6:42 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


[A few comments removed; if you're annoyed about mefi conventions take it to metatalk and if you want to have a personal argument take it to email.]
posted by cortex at 6:45 AM on December 1, 2010


"it's amazing that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often."

Whenever something like this happens I think of a much-bullied high school friend who said to me one morning "One of these days I'm getting a gun and I'm gonna shoot up this fucking school." I dismissed it as bravado at the time and in fact it was, but now, when I remember his voice, I feel dizzy, as if I've stepped to close to a ledge.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:49 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


i take it you have no children in the 13-15 age range.

Not anymore, they've grown up.

I have no problem with reviewing SWAT's actions in this incident and new tactics/techniques added to their training. My only point here was that the SWAT member's attempt to pull the kid's arm away so he doesn't shoot himself in the head is understandable and I'm loathe to assign negative intentions or blame for that action.

The boy was a hunter and fisherman. He understood the basic principle of guns (they kill) and he understood what pointing it at his own head could do. It wold have been better if he had lived and gotten help, no question.

Look, I'm not really interested in trying to lay blame here on either the kid or SWAT. What happened seems like the end result of some other and currently unknown tragic and sad process. I've been a 15 year old boy who wasn't exactly popular nor doing well in school, so I have tons of sympathy and understanding (I think) for what drove him to do what he did, while still keeping in mind that he made some choices which got him to this point.

I find it odd that nobody has considered that this good, upstanding student with private pain and no apparent motive may have been molested or raped.

That's exactly why I'm wondering what sort of questions the parents are being asked. That phone call he got makes me think of controlling parent, wondering where the hell he was. But that's total conjecture and guessing on my part, so I'm loathe to accuse anyone of anything
posted by nomadicink at 6:57 AM on December 1, 2010


I've driven through Marinette a bunch of times; our family has a cabin about an hour away. It's the only town of any decent size in that area. But it's still a small town. My first thought is that some people just aren't cut out for small town life, but the kid is described as an avid outdoorsman. If so, he lived in the perfect place for it, because that area is hunting and fishing central. Quintessential rural Wisconsin.
posted by desjardins at 7:10 AM on December 1, 2010


I have just learned that my child's middle school is working to bring Rachel's Challenge in. This program is based on the first student to die in the Columbine shootings, using her diaries to convince kids to spread a chain reaction of kindness.

This sounds laudable, but a FoaF who's a social worker said that it was shown in a nearby town last year. It begins with CNN video, aduio of the 911 calls, and CC footage of students scrambling to escape the cafeteria. She said that the program was offered with little context and no follow-up, and afterwards she ended up talking to kids who were traumatized by having this dropped on them and then left to deal with it on their own.

I bring this up to make the point that it doesn't take much to tip kids either positively or negatively. Calling them toddlers sounds reductive but perhaps it's a good way to think about this new phase in their development -- and remember how your kid would "back-slide" a little in one area as they advanced in another? My oldest is just reaching this age and it's something I try to be mindful of.

(Also, a friend moved to rural Wisconsin after junior high and killed himself a couple of years later. I think about him a lot: I don't know precisely why he did what he did, but being smart and weird and lonely probably didn't help much. I miss him.)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:12 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


blyfly: Are they commonly used for hunting?

No. No one hunts with pistols. .22 is tool small to killing anything bigger than a rabbit or squirrel.

It's a self defense weapon. Designed for humans.
posted by Bonzai at 7:22 AM on December 1, 2010


Y'know, nothing (other than, y'know, a 15-year-old kid shooting himself), nothing here hurts as much as this: "This article may not meet the notability guideline for biographies."

There used to be a separate guideline page on Wikipedia for "Notability of Criminal Acts" which specified in high-profile criminal acts, it would often be the case that the act itself was notable and worthy of an article, but the criminal(s) and/or victim(s) were generally not, if the only reason they received attention was being involved in one specific event. Under that, it would have been more clear that something like "2010 Marinette High School Hostage Situation" would likely be a valid article, and Hengel could be mentioned there in the context of the event, and "Sam Hengel" would appropriately be a redirect to that article.

Sadly, it looks like that guideline has been deleted as its own separate page. Bits and pieces of it have been rolled into Wikpedia: Notability (events) and Wikipedia: Notability (people), but a lot of the clarity and detail of the previous guideline has been lost.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:53 AM on December 1, 2010


Bonzai: "No. No one hunts with pistols. .22 is tool small to killing anything bigger than a rabbit or squirrel."

And yet they make .22 rifles. But yes, hunting with a handgun would be silly.
posted by pwnguin at 8:12 AM on December 1, 2010


A .22 is not for defense or humans. You are correct that it is too small for killing anything than a squirrel, or rabbit, or maybe a bird. Humans are bigger than that. .22's are mainly used for paper targets and pop cans. They are also used for training for larger caliber weapons (that might be used for defense). Many pistols that come in .22 cal. also come in larger calibers.
They are much cheaper to shoot and train with. Any caliber less than a 30cal/9mm is too small for defense. I have a .45 caliber 1911 pistol, and each shot costs me about 60 cents. I bought a .22 conversion kit for it, and now I can plink all day (cans fear me) for $5 where .45 ammo would cost me $50-$80. The lighter ammo means less recoil, so I can control my trigger flinch.
I don't hunt. I've never had a hunting license. .22's are for having fun with shooting. I know many of you will think that is an oxymoron, but to each their own.
posted by Balisong at 8:16 AM on December 1, 2010


.22 rifles also can have a much longer bullet and a greater powder charge than .22 pistols. It should be noted that .22 pistols are used by special forces and the like for assassinations. They don't have the same kind of knock down explosive power as a .45 or something, but it's perfect for close range. The bullet doesn't exit the skull but bounces around shredding brain tissue.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:20 AM on December 1, 2010


Also, don't forget that the ever popular AR-15 is chambered for .223 or 5.56mm rounds.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:25 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are they commonly used for hunting?

No. No one hunts with pistols.

No one uses semiauto pistols for hunting. Revolvers are very commonly used for everything from deer to bear. Also, at close ranges .22 and .223 have identical ballistics, or so I have heard.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:53 AM on December 1, 2010


That's what this thread needs, a discussion about ballistics!
posted by [citation needed] at 8:56 AM on December 1, 2010


> That's what this thread needs, a discussion about ballistics!

Well, which is more useful: a tangent discussion about the weapon used that may lead people to learn a bit more about things or just a strict observance of how totally messed up this situation is? You can have both if you like.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:01 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, it was sad about Stephen King withdrawing Rage from publication. It was one of the clearer, more human things he ever wrote.

Greg Nog : ...when I read it as a angry-souled teenager, I actually found it incredibly comforting.

How odd. That's not a term I would have thought to use, but yeah. I found it comforting as well. To know that having a huge thundercloud of anger in your head looking for somewhere to ground wasn't something that made me a freak gave me a lot of hope that one day it would go away.

My heart goes out to this kid's family and class. I hope they find some solace for their pain and grief.
posted by quin at 9:06 AM on December 1, 2010


Revolvers are very commonly used for everything from deer to bear.

Well not around here they aren't.
posted by Bonzai at 9:08 AM on December 1, 2010


A well liked student, in good standing, who wasn't being bullied, snapped.

Just like the Columbine shooters. Just like Kip Kinkel the year before.

Maybe this means that the media is going to stop mythologizing school shooters as easily identifiable crazy loners. Dave Cullen's book Columbine is an incredible dissection of how the media went with a pre-fab narrative about that tragic event, and how the reality is so different from the conventional wisdom.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:10 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well not around here they aren't.

There are regulations regarding their use in Wisconsin, so I would imagine that it is more widespread than you realize.

That's what this thread needs, a discussion about ballistics!

Sigh.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:18 AM on December 1, 2010


Just like the Columbine shooters. Just like Kip Kinkel the year before.

According to Wikipedia the Columbine shooters were unpopular, bullied and got into some legal trouble before shooting.

Kip Kinkel was noted an having problems by his teachers.
posted by nomadicink at 9:26 AM on December 1, 2010


There are regulations regarding their use in Wisconsin, so I would imagine that it is more widespread than you realize.


I live here. Almost everyone I know is hunter. I am telling you that hunting with a pistol is unusual. It certainly happens from time to time but it is considered a curiosity.

If that kid was an avid outdoorsman I'm sure he had or had access to a rifle, a shotgun and likely a bow. I can say with near certainty that those pistols were not bought to hunt with.
posted by Bonzai at 9:40 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find it odd that nobody has considered that this good, upstanding student with private pain and no apparent motive may have been molested or raped.

Why would you assume nobody has considered that?
posted by mediareport at 9:40 AM on December 1, 2010


Why would you assume nobody has considered that?

Because I've yet to see it discussed.
posted by Malice at 9:51 AM on December 1, 2010


I can say with near certainty that those pistols were not bought to hunt with.

I never said any different. I said, in fact, that no one hunts with semiautos. Even that may be an exaggeration, but it certainly must be very rare.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:59 AM on December 1, 2010


Suicide is a pretty terrifying prospect even if you want it. The kid probably did it like this in order to work himself up to it.

This is what I suspect as well. He used the situation to comfortably take himself beyond the point of no return.

Possibly he was hoping for suicide-by-cop, but he wasn't threatening enough to get that.

Very sad, but I agree, unfortunately, that he is not likely a "notable biography."

When I hear stories like this one, all I can think of is Growing Up Absurd. Our civilization is pretty fucked-up in a lot of ways.

Why would you assume nobody has considered that?

Yeah, that was my first thought too. Some sort of abuse.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:07 AM on December 1, 2010


That kid does not it the slightest bit look troubled. Normal weight. Handsome. Great smile. I wonder how old the photo is... what went wrong?

That's exactly the thing. Lots of people who don't look troubled are. They're all around us. Sometimes they are us.
posted by liketitanic at 10:09 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


> That kid does not it the slightest bit look troubled. Normal weight. Handsome. Great smile. I wonder how old the photo is... what went wrong?

Guess who? That was during his trial. I'm not comparing this kid to a serial murderer, but never judge on looks.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:12 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


adamdschneider : I never said any different. I said, in fact, that no one hunts with semiautos. Even that may be an exaggeration, but it certainly must be very rare.

Many (I would even dare say "most", though obviously I can't speak for your local area) hunters carry a sidearm for delivering the coup de grace in case they don't get a clean kill - Particularly for non-firearm based hunting (bow, trap).

As for "semiauto", that amounts to a fairly meaningless distinction that just boils down to saying "not a revolver" without really telling you much about the action (it doesn't always mean double-action) or cocking states of the weapon itself - For example, you can fire a double-action revolver considerably faster than you can fire a single-action semiautomatic (though you'll run out of ammo faster).

Summary: The fact that this kid had access to "semiautomatic handguns" doesn't mean anything at all other than a talking point for the clueless media.
posted by pla at 10:21 AM on December 1, 2010


According to Wikipedia the Columbine shooters were unpopular, bullied and got into some legal trouble before shooting.

Read Dave Cullen's book. The Columbine shooters were bullies, not bullied. They had a large coterie of friends and admirers. Yes, they did get into legal trouble, but they charmed their way out of it because they were attractive, well-groomed, well-spoken middle-class white boys.

Kip Kinkel was a troubled young man, to be sure, but he was also someone of whose picture one would easily say "Normal weight. Handsome. Great smile." Kinkel was part of what Thurston considered a "model family" and the reaction of pretty much everyone except a couple of teachers who knew how terribly angry and depressed he was was utter shock.

The idea that someone can "tell" that someone is going to snap and threaten or kill others is nonsense.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:37 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


The idea that someone can "tell" that someone is going to snap and threaten or kill others is nonsense.

I would posit that the presence of guns in the house is a major predictor. Hmm, I wonder what we could do about that ...
posted by mrgrimm at 11:04 AM on December 1, 2010


I would posit that the presence of guns in the house is a major predictor

That's nonsense. Pretty much 100% of people who live in rural areas in the US have guns in the house, in my experience. I was the only kid in my school whose parents didn't have at least one gun, because most of the other kids' parents were farmers and/or hunters.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:08 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would posit that the presence of guns in the house is a major predictor. Hmm, I wonder what we could do about that ...

Clearly, we need to remove children from houses, because guns most definitely need a home.
posted by philip-random at 11:17 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


... but seriously ...

There is some research (I remember stumbling across it a few years back) that connects the worst school gun violence with areas where formerly rural land collides with suburban sprawl. And one of the factors that was being addressed was the common tendency for rural families to have guns in their homes.
posted by philip-random at 11:23 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is one of the nightmares that every parent hopes he never faces. I hope his family somehow finds as much peace as could possibly be had in such a horrible situation.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:34 AM on December 1, 2010


Pretty much 100% of people who live in rural areas in the US have guns in the house, in my experience.

Huh?!

DID YOU KNOW? Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of suicide.

Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide by a factor of 3 to 5 and increases the risk of suicide with a firearm by a factor of 17 (Kellermann, p. 467, p. Wiebe, p. 771).

The association between firearm ownership and increased risk of suicide cannot be explained by a higher risk of psychiatric disorders in homes with guns (Miller, p. 183).

A gun in the home is 11 times more likely to be used in an attempted suicide than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense (Kellermann, p. 263).


Fox News disagrees.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:44 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is so sad, and it reminds me of an incident from my own youth. At my high school in 1991 a young man shot himself in front of his classroom. This happened the year before I attended the school, but it was still very much on the minds of the faculty and students when I started 10th grade later that year. How could it not be? Besides the tragic nature of the event, there was a hit song permeating the airwaves that exploited the shooting. You've heard it, seen the video: 'Jeremy' by corporate rockers Pearl Jam.

A year or two after the song broke, a couple of my friends caught a glimpse of a car pulling up in front of the school. Eddie Vedder & pals hopped out, tastelessly snapped some photos in front of the Richardson High School sign, and sped off. When they came inside and told us, we checked the paper and sure enough, PJ were in town that night, entertaining the brainwashed masses.
posted by item at 12:07 PM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Pretty much 100% of people who live in rural areas in the US have guns in the house, in my experience.

Huh?!


There always a few hippies around in the woods. Make it >90%.
posted by Bonzai at 12:16 PM on December 1, 2010


I said: Pretty much 100% of people who live in rural areas in the US have guns in the house, in my experience.

mrgrimm said: Huh?

In my own experience of living in rural areas in the US, everyone I knew had guns in the house. People have guns in the house for very good reasons in rural areas; they are useful farm tools, and then of course there's hunting.

I have no idea what the actual ratio of household gun ownership is in rural areas in the US, which is why I said "in my own experience" not "this research data I found at this site suggests." My brother and I were, quite seriously, the only kids in our school whose parents didn't own at least one gun.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:16 PM on December 1, 2010


I also didn't know anyone except this one weird junior-high science teacher who labored under the delusion that they had guns for "self-defense." They had guns to put sick animals out of their misery quickly, and to shoot game animals for food.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:18 PM on December 1, 2010


Had the same reaction to this I did to Columbine. First, that the kid must have been in a huge amount of pain. Second, I remembered how much I hurt at that age.

Adolescence just sucks. Considering all the torment and poisonous homes, I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often.
posted by QIbHom at 12:39 PM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


.
posted by MeiraV at 1:13 PM on December 1, 2010


I distinctly remember one summer day when I was about thirteen where, for about three hours, if someone had put a gun in my hand, I would have happily murdered about a half dozen older kids who'd humiliated me during a game of pick-up softball. Instead, I ended grabbing a bunch of rocks and smashing windows in some of their houses.

I never did get caught.
posted by philip-random at 2:10 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


My brother and I were, quite seriously, the only kids in our school whose parents didn't own at least one gun.

Not to pick the tiny nits further, but this partially elicited my "Huh?" Your family didn't have one -- how can the percentage be 100%?! (I don't buy 99% either though. There are more hippies than you imagine ...)

posted by mrgrimm at 3:50 PM on December 1, 2010


And some hippies own guns.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:37 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fox News disagrees.

I hope that's HAMBURGER. God, what an obnoxious article.
posted by JHarris at 5:44 PM on December 1, 2010


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