A milk-truck driver carrying three guns and a childhood grudge stormed a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, sent the boys and adults outside, barricaded the doors, and then opened fire on the remaining girls, killing at least three people before committing suicide.
At least seven other victims were critically wounded, authorities said.
It was the nation's third deadly school shooting in less than a week, and it sent shock waves through Lancaster County's Amish country, a picturesque landscape of horse-drawn buggies, green pastures and neat-as-a-pin farms, where violent crime is virtually nonexistent.
The victims were lined up along the chalkboard, their feet bound with wire and plastic ties, before they were shot, authorities said. Two young students were killed, along with a female teacher's aide who was 15 or 16 years old, authorities said.
"This is a horrendous, horrific incident for the Amish community. They're solid citizens in the community. They're good people. They don't deserve. No one deserves this," state police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said. The victims were Old Order Amish.
The gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old truck driver and father of three from the nearby town of Bart, was bent on killing young girls as a way of "acting out in revenge for something that happened 20 years ago" when he was a boy, Miller said. He refused to say what that long-ago hurt was.
Roberts was not Amish and appeared to have nothing against the Amish community, Miller said. Instead, Miller said, he apparently picked the school because it was close by, there were girls there, and it had little or no security.
Miller said Roberts was apparently preparing for a long siege, arming himself with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol, a 12-gauge shotgun and a rifle, along with a bag of about 600 rounds of ammunition, two cans of smokeless powder, two knives and a stun gun.
The shooting took place at the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School, a neat white building set amid green fields. The school had about 25 to 30 students, ages 6 to 13.
According to investigators, Roberts walked his children to the school bus stop, then backed his truck up to the Amish school, unloaded his weapons and several pieces of lumber, and walked in about 10 a.m. He released about 15 boys, a pregnant woman and three women with babies, Miller said.
He barricaded the doors; made the remaining girls line up along a blackboard; and tied their feet together with wire ties and plastic ties, Miller said. The teacher and another adult at the school fled to a farmhouse nearby, and someone there called 911 to report a gunman holding students hostage.
Roberts apparently called his wife by cell phone about 11 a.m., saying he was taking revenge for an old grudge, Miller said. Moments later, Roberts told a dispatcher he would open fire on the children if police didn't back away from the building. Within seconds, troopers heard gunfire. They smashed the windows to get inside and found his body.
Roberts had left several rambling notes to his wife and three children that Miller said were "along the lines of suicide notes."
From the suicide notes and telephone calls, it was clear Roberts was "angry at life, he was angry at God," Miller said. And it was clear from interviews with his co-workers at the dairy that his mood had darkened in recent days, the officer said.
A family spokesman, Dwight Lefever, read a short statement from Roberts' wife that said, in part, "Our hearts are broken, our lives are shattered, and we grieve for the innocence and lives that were lost today."
White House to host talks on school violence
RENO, Nev. - The Bush administration will host a conference next week to discuss the recent string of school violence across the country, the White House said Monday.
Presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino said the conference will bring together education and law enforcement officials to talk about the nature of the problem and federal action that can help communities prevent violence and deal with its aftermath.
Las Vegas campuses locked down for search
LAS VEGAS - Four public school campuses were locked down Monday while police searched for a teenager who was spotted at a high school with a gun, authorities said.
No shots were fired, and police said they had no indication the teen - a former student who had been banned from Mojave High School - had threatened anyone.
Monday's attack on the Amish school was the deadliest school shooting since a teenager killed seven people and himself at a high school on a Minnesota Indian reservation on March 21, 2005. He earlier killed his grandfather and his grandfather's companion. Nationwide, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., remains the deadliest school shooting, with 15 dead, including the two teenage gunmen.
Some recent fatal shootings at U.S. schools were:
Sept. 29: A 15-year-old is accused of fatally shooting a principal in Cazenovia, Wis.
Sept. 27: Duane Morrison, 53, took six girls hostage at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo. Morrison sexually assaulted them before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself.
Aug. 24: Christopher Williams, 27, is accused of fatally shooting a teacher and wounding another while looking for his ex-girlfriend, a teacher, at an elementary school in Essex, Vt. He is also accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's mother.
- Associated Press
* Also known as Anabaptists, the Amish (pronounced AH-mish) are a Christian denomination that teaches separation from the world.
* The Amish are an offshoot of the Mennonites, who fled from Switzerland to Germany under persecution. They split from the Mennonites in 1693, mostly because of the Amish practice of shunning expelled members.
* Strict adherence to Amish ways prohibits the use of electricity, telephones, computers, and television in the home. Some Amish have relaxed the rules over time.
* The Old Order Amish are the most conservative. Lancaster County in Pennsylvania is home to some 20,000 Old Order Amish.
* The Amish speak a German dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch.
- Associated Press, World Book OnlineSchool violence