DA: Investigation is continuing
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 6:00 PM
MARINETTE - Additional details surrounding Monday night's hostage standoff at Marinette High School trickled slowly from a steady stream of press conferences Tuesday morning - by Tuesday afternoon it was learned that the whole story may never be learned.
A barricade outside Jon and Ann Hengel's home in Porterfield expresses their wish for privacy. The hand-lettered sign says “We do not wish to speak at this time.” EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Hengel family statement
"Our family is extremely distraught over the events that have taken place over the course of the last 24 hours that have concluded with the passing of our son.
"We wish we knew and could provide insight to what led Sam to take these drastic acts. Unfortunately we may never know the answer to the question 'Why?' because there were no indicators to make us think something was wrong. In the coming days and weeks as we talk to other people involved in this incident we hope reasons surface so we too, can stop asking ourselves 'why?'
"Even though we are devastated and heartbroken over the loss of our son, we are extremely thankful there were no other injuries in this incident. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the students, teacher, their families and others affected by this horrific incident. Although there were no physical injuries to others, we regret the emotional trauma to all involved.
"Thank you to all emergency response agencies for the role they played in keeping the situation from escalating further. Thank you to the public for your support for our family and individuals involved. We appreciate you respecting our privacy at this most difficult time.
"Sam was a 15-year-old sophomore at Marinette High School. He was active in the Boy Scouts, tae kwon do, loved his iTouch and was an avid outdoorsman. He loved hunting, fishing and anything that included his family and the outdoors."
(This statement was offered through a family spokesperson.)
Speaking at Tuesday's final scheduled press conference, Marinette Police Chief Jeffrey Skorik announced that Samuel Hengel had succumbed to the self-inflicted gunshot wound he sustained at the conclusion of Monday night's standoff.
"I come to you with some sad news at this point. I spoke with Marinette County Coroner George Smith, and he has confirmed that, at 10:44 a.m., the suspect was pronounced dead," Skorik said. Hengel, a 15-year-old Porterfield resident, was a sophomore at Marinette High.
Skorik said that Smith has ordered a full autopsy be conducted to determine Hengel's cause of death. Unfortunately, an autopsy will not unearth a motive.
"This is a terrible tragedy; so many people were traumatized - and we may never truly know why this happened," said Allen Brey, Marinette County District Attorney.
Brey stated repeatedly at Tuesday's conference that he will not release an opinion until all of the facts of the case are available.
"At this point, I don't have enough facts to be able to render opinions - I'd like to have the facts first."
"But it would be a mistake to think that somehow - because unfortunately this young man has died (and) he's the one person who could answer the 'why' question," Brey said.
"We'll all speculate - we'll wonder - were there warning signs? Did anybody know? The one guy who could give us those answers is gone."
Brey said that he feels bad for Hengel's family, adding, by all outward appearances, the boy had a good family and was a good kid.
"(There is) no reason to think this was a problem child where there were flags going off all over and we should be concerned - we'll look for those answers, but we'll get the facts first, and then make the decisions," Brey concluded, before offering to take questions from the large group of media assembled inside the Marinette County Law Enforcement Center conference room.
Brey's question-and-answer session got a little heated at times, as it appeared a few of the television reporters didn't take Brey seriously when he said "at this point, I don't have enough facts to render opinions."
"Whose guns were they?" asked a reporter.
"We will give you the answer when we release our report - I am not an investigator, sir," Brey replied. "I merely review what the police are doing. The police today are reviewing and interviewing all pertinent people."
Brey caught the questioner off guard with a question of his own: "What time is it?"
"A little after noon," the reporter replied.
"Do you think all of the witnesses have been interviewed at this point? Do you think all of the witnesses have been interviewed at this point?" Brey repeated.
"I honestly don't know," replied the reporter.
"Well, I'm telling you they haven't been," Brey said clearly.
The same reporter then asked the district attorney if the suspect's parents or the suspect himself have registered guns.
"Well, in the state of Wisconsin we're not required to register our firearms like some big cities require you to - we have a little more freedom with our firearms," Brey explained.
The DA reiterated that the investigation is ongoing and not all of the answers are available.
"I can tell you that one of the tasks being accomplished today by the police is to get those answers, and I can further tell you - I don't have them," Brey said. "Let's get the facts first - let the police do their job, then we'll give our answers."
The answers won't come instantaneously, but when they do come, they will be made a available, Brey assured.
The DA expects that Skorik will probably have some type of report ready for his review by Monday.
"If, for whatever reason, I thought there was some problem with the police response - which I can tell you, I do not believe that there was any based on what I know right now - I think the police acted appropriately, and I believe this young man took his life, and I believe the investigation will bear that out," Brey said.
"But nevertheless, if someone said 'hey, this DA is covering up for cops' - we're going to have the complete report and people can look at it and make their own judgments."
Brey estimates it will be about eight weeks before the report is completed and released.MARINETTE - Marinette High School students, faculty, and administrators were thrust into an unprecedented hostage situation Monday afternoon and evening at MHS. The lives of 25 students and social studies teacher Valerie Burd hung in the balance.
The crisis began in Burd's classroom, and continued there unnoticed until approximately 3:45, when a concerned parent called principal Corry Lambie's office. The parent inquired of the whereabouts of a daughter, who had failed to return a phone call.
The call prompted Lambie and assistant principal Doug Polomis to walk to Burd's classroom and investigate.
"The door was locked, the classroom was dark - I used my key to enter the classroom, I took a couple steps in - the student threatened me with the gun and told me to step back and leave the classroom," Lambie said.
According to the principal, the gunman again asked him to leave. This time Lambie heeded the advice and retreated to his office to dial 911.
The female student whose parent had called was allowed to leave the classroom with Lambie.
At approximately 7:40 p.m., five more students were allowed to leave because they requested to use the restroom.
"These kids handled it perfectly - the first students that exited the classroom came out of the classroom and described it as a calm setting, where there were times when he (Samuel Hengel) may have appeared agitated, but for the most part they felt non-threatened," Lambie said.
Approximately 25 minutes later, the remaining hostages emerged, after members of the Green Bay Swat team breached the classroom door. When the door came down, the gunman allegedly shot himself, ending a standoff that lasted roughly six hours.
Lambie said Burd deserves a great deal of credit. She served as the main communication link between the classroom and law enforcement officers, and by all accounts, she brought a calming presence into a very tense situation.
"She just made us very proud to have her as an employee, and in front of our students on a daily basis," Lambie said of Burd.
"We were in a very tragic situation that I think our staff member and students handled almost as perfectly as could have been handled. The only unfortunate part is we lost a student yesterday," Lambie said.
"It was a tragedy, yes," Superintendent Tim Baneck agreed. "I think you can only imagine, especially those of you that may be a parent, what those parents were feeling, or the spouse of the teacher."
"It was very intense - those emotions of not knowing what's going to happen in the future of course is always, always, difficult," Baneck said.