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Pennsylvania students cope with shooting spree

Wurst
Boy has been charged as an adult  
Scene of shooting at a junior high school dance
video icon 2.2 MB / 40 sec.
QuickTime movie
A Parker Middle School student describes the scene
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(350 K / 32 sec. audio)
State Trooper Mark Zaleski tells what happened
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(800 K / 75 sec. audio)
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1 dead; 3 wounded; 14-year-old charged

EDINBORO, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Students and teachers at a northwestern Pennsylvania middle school met with counselors Saturday, trying to come to terms with a shooting spree at a graduation dance Friday night that left a popular teacher dead and three others wounded.

A 14-year-old Parker Middle School student, Andrew Jerome Wurst, of nearby McKean, has been charged with one count of criminal homicide and three counts of aggravated assault in connection with the shootings. He is being held without bond in the Erie County Jail, and authorities say they will try him as an adult.

"The community is just shocked and simply just can't believe what has happened," said Clifford Allen, the mayor of Edinboro, a town of 6,000 people about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Pittsburgh. Flags were lowered to half-staff Saturday.

Edinboro becomes the fourth small American community to be rocked by a fatal school shooting within the past year, joining a grim list that includes Pearl, Mississippi, West Paducah, Kentucky and Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Witness: 'We heard a bang'

At about 9:40 p.m. EDT on Friday, police say Wurst, armed with a.25-caliber handgun registered to his father, shot science teacher John Gillette, 48, on the patio of a restaurant where a dance was being held for 240 students. He then walked inside and fired several shots, fleeing the scene through a rear exit, police say.

"We were all dancing and having a great time, and we heard a bang and everybody thought it was a balloon or firecracker," said Trysta Nagy, an eighth-grade student. "And I heard people yelling, 'Get down, get down.'"

"I didn't see the shot, but I heard it, and then another," said Lucien Haury, another Parker student. "About 10 or 12 of us then piled into a closet."

Gillette, who was shot in the head, died at the scene. Two 14-year-old boys were wounded by gunfire and treated and released from a local hospital. A female teacher was grazed by a bullet but did not require hospital treatment.

Girls in satin dresses and boys in ties huddled together after the shooting, many sobbing. The theme of the dance had been "I've Had the Time of My Life."

Restaurant owner apprehends boy

school
Students at Parker Middle School comfort and support one another  

The restaurant's owner, James Strand, armed with a shotgun, pursued Wurst and persuaded him to give up his weapon and surrender in a nearby field, police say.

"We don't know a motive at this time, but we're exploring a couple of different avenues," said Mark Zaleski, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police. A student told the Morning News in nearby Erie that Wurst had said he was going to make the dance "memorable."

In addition to the homicide and aggravated assault charges, Wurst has also been charged with three counts of reckless endangerment, two firearms violations and possession of a controlled substance. Police say he had a small amount of marijuana when he was apprehended.

Zaleski said Wurst's mother was with him Saturday at the jail where he is being held.

Under Pennsylvania law, juveniles are automatically charged as adults when the crime is homicide, said Cpl. Kirby Ames of the state police. However, he said that could change after court hearings are held in the case.

"Now it's up to the courts to go through the hearing process to determine if they're going to keep processing him as an adult and try him as an adult or if they're going to try him as a juvenile," Ames said.

Slain teacher a 27-year veteran

flowers
Flowers mark the spot where teacher John Gillette was shot  

Gillette, married with three children, had been a teacher for 27 years and once coached high school football. He was a faculty adviser to Parker's student council and helped organize Friday's dance.

"He was really dedicated," said Dennis Kitchen, a fellow teacher, who said Gillette had been talking about retirement. "He's the one that started these dances in the first place."

"He was the best football coach I ever had,' said Bill O'Brien, 27, whose mother was Gillette's neighbor. "You see this happening on TV, but you never expect it to happen in your own backyard."

Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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