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Student who took others hostage was 'exemplary'

MARINETTE, Wis. — Sam Hengel was by all accounts the least likely of 15-year-olds to bring two pistols, knives and more than 200 rounds of ammunition into his social studies class, taking several of his closest friends and other terrified classmates hostage before shooting himself to death.

He was a good student with extracurriculars such as Boy Scouts and tae kwon do. A hunting and fishing enthusiast, he had a lot of friends and police don't believe he was bullied. He loved his gadgets and the Green Bay Packers.

As law enforcement officials try to figure out what may have led Hengel to take over his Marinette High School classroom for more than six hours Monday and ultimately take his own life, family and friends say they're at a loss.

"I was devastated. He was just an exemplary kid," said Henry Johnston, one of Hengel's scout leaders. "That question 'why?' is just a question there's no answer for at this time."

Police Chief Jeffrey Skorik isn't sure there ever will be.

"We are going to continue to search, but that answer may have gone with Sam and we may never know," he said.

Students said Hengel didn't explain himself during the standoff, but didn't threaten or appear to want to shoot anyone despite the sheer number of bullets he had in his possession.

Skorik declined Wednesday to draw any conclusions about Hengel's intent, saying investigators don't know whether the guns may have always been in the bag with the ammo or whether Hengel put it all together specifically for the standoff.

The chief said investigators in the city of 12,000 people bordering Michigan's Upper Peninsula had not found any notes or explanations from Hengel as of Wednesday.

Austin Biehl, 15, was in Hengel's class. "He seemed fine, except he had a gun in his hand, that's the only thing that was worrying," Biehl said. He said he didn't think Hengel was going to hurt anyone, but it was obvious those in the room couldn't leave.

Student who took others hostage was 'exemplary' 12/02/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:26pm]
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