Ex-teacher surrenders after taking students hostage
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PARIS, France (CNN) -- A former teacher armed with a fake gun took 21 students and two teaching assistants hostage for several hours before surrendering, French national police confirmed to CNN.
The 33-year-old man, a former teacher at the vocational school of 1,500 students, burst into the classroom in Sable-sur-Sarthe around 2 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Thursday.
It was discovered after the man surrendered that his weapon was, in fact, a fake gun made of plastic, according to Stephane Bouillon, the departmental governor of Sarthe.
Bouillon also said the man was taking medication and was under the influence of alcohol.
Earlier reports said 18 students and two teachers were being held.
A secretary at the school told CNN the man was a teacher there until two years ago.
He was apparently depressed about losing his job there and is still unemployed, and one of his demands was to get his job back, the secretary said.
Jean-Claude Rouanet, academic inspector for Sable-sur-Sarthe, told French television BFM the man had asked to talk to former education minister Francois Fillon, who is also the former mayor of the city in which the school is located.
French media reported that Fillon was headed to the school from London and had been expected to arrive later in the evening to meet with the hostage-taker.
A 40-member elite special operations team that has been used in other hostage situations, the GIGN (Groupe D'Intervention Gendarmerie National), arrived at the site in the evening, but its services were ultimately not needed.
No one was injured in the ordeal, and journalists on the scene reported that authorities did not seem to be worried too much about the situation because students were walking freely about the classroom and even communicating with their parents via their cell phones.
The gunman had put down his weapon and removed its cartridge early on in the drama, the school secretary said.
Sable-sur-Sarthe is about two hours west of Paris, near the famed Le Mans of auto racing. Its population is about 13,500, according to the city's Web site.
-- CNN Correspondent Jim Bittermann contributed to this report
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