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Junior High Student Kills Custodian, Wounds Principal and Secretary

December 11, 1985

PORTLAND, Conn. (AP) _ A 14-year-old student opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle in a junior high school Tuesday, killing a custodian and wounding the principal and a secretary, police said.

The student also took a fellow student hostage for about 30 minutes before surrendering, authorities said.

Authorities did not release the name of the suspect because of his age. Fellow students described him as a ″nice kid″ who had acted strangely recently and said he ″had to get out″ of school.

The student apparently confronted principal Don Rixon in a hallway on the first floor of the two-story, 380-student school, said state police Sgt. Edward Dailey.

The principal scrambled into an office and locked the door. The student fired shots through the door and Rixon was struck by flying glass, Dailey said.

A secretary, Lynn Haddad, 53, of Portland, was shot in the arm and was reported in good condition at Middlesex Memorial Hospital in Middletown, officials said. The principal was struck with shattered glass.

The student headed upstairs carrying a 9mm semi-automatic rifle, encountered the custodian, David L. Bengston, 36, between floors and fatally shot him in the head, police said.

The student then took a seventh-grade student hostage in a second-floor classroom, police said. Other students on the second floor took refuge in nearby classrooms, while first-floor students were evacuated, police said.

After about a half-hour of negotiations, the armed student tossed his rifle out of a second-floor window and surrendered to authorities, but not until an aunt arrived at the school, police said.

Dailey said he had ″no idea″ what provoked the shooting. ″I think he just walked in showing the gun. He had a confrontation with the principal,″ he said.

Gail Lacoss, an eighth-grader, said she was in the school’s computer room when the gun-toting student entered the room, pulling along his hostage by the arm.

″He saw me and came in to talk with me,″ Miss Lacoss said. ″He just wanted to learn what was up. He said he had to get out of here (school) and I asked him if he was going to shoot everybody. He just said he had to get out of here.″

She said the student and his hostage then left the room.

Other pupils said the suspect had been acting strangely in recent weeks, wearing a long overcoat all day, and was suspended last week for refusing to take his hat off in school.

″He was a nice kid,″ said Chris Martin, a seventh-grader. ″He liked to fool around a lot. He has been acting strange lately. He has been down low like something’s been wrong with him.″

After the shooting began, a vice principal announced on the public-address system that someone was carrying a gun in the school, Dailey said. Teachers locked all doors, desks were turned over and students hid behind the desks.

″The teachers here did a marvelous job. It could have been a whole lot worse,″ Dailey said.

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