Students step off a bus at the Marinette County Courthouse after a stand-off ended Monday. A student gunman held 23 students and a teacher hostage at Marinette High School. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Students step off a bus at the Marinette County Courthouse after a stand-off ended Monday. A student gunman held 23 students and a teacher hostage at Marinette High School.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MARINETTE - A 15-year-old male student held 23 students and a female teacher hostage for about six hours Monday at Marinette High School.
The suspect, a student in the sophomore Western Civilization class, shot himself after police officers stormed the classroom shortly after 8 p.m., according to Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik.
The suspect, whose name was not released, was transported to Bay Area Medical Center. Skorik said his condition is unknown and his parents are with him. Other media reported he was transferred to a Green Bay hospital.
Skorik said officers broke through the door after they heard three gunshots.
"There were shots fired prior to law enforcement's arrival," he said. "After officers breached the door, the suspect was standing in front of the classroom and he fired one shot - and suffered a self-inflicted wound."
Skorik said it's not immediately clear where the other shots were fired, but neither the students nor the teacher, Valerie Burd, were injured.
"All the students were safely removed from the classroom, placed on buses and reunited with their families (at the Marinette County Courthouse)," Skorik said.
Five of the students were released shortly before 8 p.m. when they told the gunman they had to use the bathroom.
The chief said the gunman - armed with a .22 caliber semiautomatic and a 9mm semiautomatic - did not make any demands during the ordeal. He said all contact to the classroom was done through the hostage negotiator and the teacher. It's not clear if the suspect had a motive, he said.
Marinette County District Attorney Allen Brey will review the case and file charges, possibly today, according to Skorik.
The gunman apparently took the classroom hostage sometime during sixth hour - between 1:30 and 2:15 p.m. The 911 call wasn't placed until 3:48 p.m.
Skorik said the details are still being sorted out as to what led to the 911 call from Principal Corry Lambie.
Superintendent Tim Baneck assured that students' safety was the top priority and that administrators handled the situation correctly.
"Our administrators are very capable and I'm confident they were concerned with the safety of our children," he said.
Senior Kevin Smith was one of the students in Burd's seventh-hour class. He said the entire class was turned away when they arrived at about 2:15.
"She peeked her head out and told us to go visit the library and work on our debates," he said.
Smith said he and a classmate went back to Burd's room at about 2:50 p.m. to see if she wanted them to take attendance.
"I could see all the kids in the class through the (door) window - I thought she was scolding them," he said, adding that he saw the suspect, but did not see any weapon.
Skorik did not give details of what led to the 911 call, but a source said administrators were notified by a student at about 3:45 p.m. that Burd's classroom was locked with students inside. Lambie immediately called 911, the source said.
Burd was praised for how she handled the situation.
"I was told she did a great job under those circumstances," Baneck said.
Kelly Danielczak, a Marinette Middle School teacher and close friend of Burd's, was with the parents of the children at the courthouse.
"She's a teacher every kid likes," Danielczak said. "She's not a yeller or a screamer. She's speaks in a soft-spoken voice. She's 100 percent the type of teacher you want with that child (the suspect). He won't see her as a threat. He'll see her as someone who will help him."
Senior Rachel Bjorkman was not at school when the incident took place, but her younger brother, Nathan, was one of the hostages.
"He's very brave," she said.
Lt. Jim Albright of the Marinette County Sheriff's Department announced to the parents at about 8:10 p.m. that the crises was over and all the children were safe.
A collective sigh could be heard through the jury assembly room, followed by applause, tears and hugs.
Jeff Thielen, whose 15-year-old son Brad was a hostage, said he and his family relied on prayer during the situation.
"There's a certain relief," he said shortly after news that the children were safe. "There still will be wounds emotionally. I have two children (ages 13 and 11) who were in the high school with my wife (Cindi, a teacher). They took this pretty hard."
Baneck said the high school will not have classes today. He said grief counselors will be made available.
EagleHerald staff writer
MARINETTE - Monday night's hostage standoff in a Marinette High School classroom ended without injury to any of the 23 students being held.
But the ordeal has left fellow students, including some who knew the 15-year-old alleged gunman, wondering what exactly went wrong.
Senior Michael Arnold said he was reporting for his scheduled seventh hour class when he discovered something just wasn't right.
"I was supposed to arrive there for seventh hour (and) I arrived two or three minutes early - the door was closed, the lights were off (so) we waited there. About a minute after the bell rang for seventh hour I saw two students back up with their desks, and then some seconds later Mrs. (Valerie) Burd walked out and told all of us to walk down to the library - and then immediately after that when she closed the door, I heard a gunshot (sound)," Arnold said.
According to Arnold, Burd didn't explain to the other students standing in the hall what was going on, "she just said 'go down to the library.'"
Arnold said he and the others who were waiting thought the gunshot sound might have been a door being slammed, or someone dropping something heavy. It wasn't until later that evening when Arnold spoke with his mother about the incident that he began to put the pieces together.
Arnold said he knew the alleged gunman's name, but police are not yet allowing the suspect's name to be released.
Another Marinette High School student, sophomore Nick Nelezen, said he not only knows the suspect's name, he knows the shooter on a personal level.
Nelezen was at school, gathering his stuff for wrestling practice when he noticed a female student come out of a classroom, crying.
"She said that one of my friends from Boy Scouts had a gun in school, and held the whole the class hostage," Nelezen said.
When he was told the gunman the was someone he was close to, Nelezen was shocked.
"I went to Boy Scouts with him; I did a lot of stuff with him. He was a straight A student, he was really quiet and never had anything wrong with him - he was one of the most popular kids I knew," Nelezen said.
Like many other students and parents, Nelezen is left to wonder what could have possibly led to his friend deciding to hold 23 of his classmates hostage.
Investigators are now tasked with putting the pieces of the puzzle together - and making sense of the unthinkable.