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Teen charged with fatally shooting teacher at dance

As far back as a month ago, there were signs that the kid nicknamed "Satan" by his friends might do something drastic and dangerous.

But no one thought much of what 14-year-old Andrew Wurst said, even when he talked about shooting people. After all, he was just a shy and quirky eighth-grader with an offbeat sense of humor, a dislike of school, and frustrated anger toward his parents, according to students who know him.

By Saturday, though, everyone in this rural, northwestern Pennsylvania community 100 miles from Pittsburgh had heard of Wurst _ and had to take him seriously.

At an arraignment Saturday morning, Pennsylvania State Police charged the teenager with murdering John Gillette, a popular teacher, Friday night during a school dance.

Police also accused Wurst of wounding two other students and a teacher, causing minor injuries. The teen is being held in the Erie County Prison and is being charged as an adult.

As students, faculty and parents grappled with the reality of violence invading their peaceful area, police were still trying to piece together what happened at Nick's Place, a banquet hall a mile down the road from James Parker Middle School, where Wurst was a student.

Witnesses said the shooting came suddenly. One moment, they said, Gillette, 48, was ushering students from a patio area at Nick's Place as the dance wound down, the next, he was falling to the ground, one bullet in his head, another in his back.

"We heard gunshots. We looked out and we saw Mr. Gillette fall," said Justin Fletcher, 15. Wurst "came back inside and said, "Sit down and shut up before everybody else dies.'


Wurst fired several times inside the hall before he ran out the back to a field. Fletcher gave chase along with James Strand, owner of Nick's Place.

Strand, who was carrying a shotgun, coaxed Wurst into giving up the small-caliber pistol police said he was carrying.

Fourteen hours after the shooting, a procession of cars and minivans bearing parents and crying children flowed into the middle school parking lot. Therese Walter, superintendent of the General McLane School District, had arranged for counselors to help students through their grief.

Ben Mills and Triston Lucas, both 14, tooled up to the middle school on their mountain bikes, too late for the counseling session, but in plenty of time to talk to the media horde about Wurst.

Identifying themselves as friends of Wurst, they described the teenager as someone who liked to smoke marijuana and listen to the lyrics of the ghoulish musical group Marilyn Manson.

Lucas said that about a month ago, he visited Wurst's home in nearby McKean with a few friends. He said Wurst led the group to his father's dresser, opened a drawer and pulled out a tiny gun from underneath a pile of clothes.

"He said that he was going to take that gun, use nine shells to kill nine people that he hated, and then kill himself," Lucas said.

Both Mills and Lucas said Wurst did not know Gillette and never had him as a teacher.

Other students, such as Patrick Knaus, 14, said they heard Wurst talking about how he would make the dance a "memorable" evening.

At the party itself, people thought that some prank had been pulled when they heard the gunshots, Knaus said.

It was not until the teachers, who were chaperoning the dance with Gillette yelled for everyone to get down that realization dawned.

Knaus said he was dancing when the shots rang out and he saw Wurst come in from the patio.

"He was holding a gun. Some one goes, "Andrew, what are you doing?'

" Knaus said. "When he came out, people were screaming. No one knew what was going on."

Parents and students praised Gillette on Saturday.

"We lost John because he was doing what John's life was about, and what John did best," superintendent Walter said. "The sad part of this whole thing is I don't have any answers."

That sentiment was shared by many, including those who could not help but draw parallels between Friday night's events and the recent shootings of students in Jonesboro, Ark.