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Videotape Details Laurie Dann’s Last Day: Arson, Gunfire and Poison

February 24, 1989

WINNETKA, Ill. (AP) _ A videotape that recreates Laurie Dann’s last day - a nightmare of deadly gunfire at an elementary school, arson, poison and suicide - helps spare Police Chief Herbert Timm the strain of retelling the grim story.

″But it also brings back memories. It makes it as vivid as when I was there,″ said Timm, who is using the video in presentations on the deadly events of last May 20 to law enforcement, social work and community groups.

″We started getting so many requests, we decided to make a video that might stand on its own,″ Winnetka Police Lt. Joe Sumner said Friday.

″Community Crisis: The Laurie Dann Case″ recreates Dann’s violent rampage in this comfortable north Chicago suburb.

Dann, 30, opened fire in a second-grade classroom at Winnetka’s Hubbard Woods elementary school, killing one student and wounding five. She then ran to a nearby home and wounded a college student before killing herself.

The video recounts the events beginning at 10:20 a.m., when the city’s Fire Department received its first call about a fire in the house where Dann babysat, to 7:20 p.m., when police found her dead.

Police later found evidence she had attempted to set fires and deliver poison snacks and drinks before the school shootings.

The video includes Timm’s estimate that if Dann had killed everyone she tried to burn, poison and shoot that day, the death toll would have been 50 instead of two - an 8-year-old boy and Dann herself - and six wounded.

″Every time I see it, tears come to my eyes,″ Timm said.

The video also includes the chief’s candid admission that reporters’ questions helped shape police strategy.

″They would ask ... ‘Chief, how about this? Chief, how about that?’ And I would say, ’Well, we’re working on that, we’re looking into it,‴ Timm recalled on the video.

″Then I’d race back into the building and say ... ’My God, have you guys thought about looking into this?‴

Survivors or victims’ families were not interviewed, said independent producer Gerald Rogers, who donated his hourlong, $50,000 production to this village of about 13,000.

″We tried very hard not to be sensationalistic or to exploit anyone,″ Rogers said. ″I wanted people to learn.″

The camera bursts into the bathroom where one boy was shot and moves into a second-grade classroom, where the woman’s gunfire killed Nicholas Corwin and wounded four other children. Still photographs capture the aftermath of bloody clothing, a bloody floor.

Stark photographs of Dann’s body, face down on a carpet, mark the end of the daylong assault, though Rogers said he debated over using them.

″For a storyteller, it had a finality to it that was hard to overlook,″ said Rogers, who lives in neighboring Kenilworth and produces education film and videotapes.

Timm turned to Rogers to help with the video project after the two met while working together with parents concerned about drug and alcohol abuse.

The tape sells for $450 and rents for $100. Any profits will go to the Winnetka Police Department.

″It showed us there are some things we did wrong - we had problems with command posts (in the right place) and problems with communication when calls from reporters and families saturated our phone lines,″ Sumner said.

The video brings back tragic memories for him, too.

″But if it’s going to help someone in the future,″ Sumner added,″it’s worth the pain.″

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