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Second Child Dies After Being Shot in School Rampage

September 29, 1988

GREENWOOD, S.C. (AP) _ A second victim of a gunman’s rampage at an elementary school died today, a few hours after students and teachers returned to class for the first time since the shooting spree that also left nine people wounded.

The man accused in Monday’s shootings at Oakland Elementary School said in an interview published today that he was copying a similar rampage by a woman in Winnetka, Ill., and also thought of the taunting he suffered as a child.

James William Wilson, 19, said that as he pulled the trigger on his grandfather’s .22-caliber pistol, he was remembering being picked on by classmates at other schools for being overweight and dressing funny, The State newspaper of Columbia reported today.

Eight-year-old Tequila Thomas, a third-grader hospitalized in critical condition since she was wounded, died shortly after noon today at Self Memorial Hospital, said Dan Branyon, a hospital spokesman.

Another 8-year-old girl, Shequila Bradley, died at the school.

″All of us here at Self Memorial, as well as the community of Greenwood, the state of South Carolina and, I’m certain, the rest of the country join in expressing our deepest sympathy to the family of this little girl who put up such a valiant battle for life,″ Branyon said.

″Tequila never regained consciousness from the time of her arrival″ at the hospital, Branyon said.

Children in this city 75 miles northwest of Columbia returned to classes at the 600-pupil school a bit nervously this morning.

Leah Holmes, 8, her arm in a sling from a gunshot wound she suffered Monday, shook her head emphatically and said ″Nope,″ when asked whether she was scared to return to school. But other children and parents arriving at the school said they were jumpy.

There was a police officer on every corner of the school grounds and at least three officers were stationed at the front of the building as parents and children arrived.

″We’re a little nervous, but it’s just been a shock primarily,″ said Alan Maxwell, as he walked his daughter Katy to school.

Wilson, who is charged with murder, was interviewed Wednesday by the newspaper by telephone at the State Hospital in Columbia, where he is undergoing psychological testing. Relatives have described him as a hyperactive recluse who has been in and out of a hospital psychiatric unit during the past eight months.

Witnesses said Wilson shot pupils who screamed during Monday’s incident.

″I thought some of the students in the school were after me,″ Wilson said in the interview. ″I was trying to make them be quiet.

″I feel real bad about what happened.″

On May 20, Laurie Dann killed an 8-year-old boy and wounded six people in and around a school in the affluent Chicago suburb of Winnetka before killing herself.

″I could understand where she was coming from,″ Wilson said. ″I think I may have copied her in a way.″

He said he was thinking about an article about Dann that he had torn from a June issue of People magazine. ″I read it every day,″ he said.

Wilson also said he was up all night before the shootings reading a book about John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted in 1980 of killing 33 men and boys, most of whom were buried under his suburban Chicago house. Gacy is on death row in an Illinois prison.

Asked if the book was a factor in the shootings, Wilson said, ″It’s possible.″

He said he had contemplated the shootings a couple of times, but there wss nothing in particular that triggered the act.

Wilson said he remembered little of the shootings. ″It was like a fog or a dream,″ he said, recalling pupils fleeing through windows and blood on a hallway floor where a teacher was shot.

″I remember being at the back of the school with my hands up and the police arresting me,″ he said. ″I don’t remember feeling anything.″

Two teachers who were wounded remained hospitalized today, and one of six students treated and released was admitted today in fair condition, complaining of discomfort from her wounds.

Physical education teacher Kat Finkbeiner, who was shot in the hand and mouth while trying to subdue the attacker, and teacher Eleanor Hodge were in good condition, Branyon said.

Oakland Elementary Principal Eleanor Rice and other school officials talked with about 500 students and parents Wednesday night to help ease the return to school, which has kindergarten through fourth grade.

Ms. Rice praised school staff members for trying to protect the children.

″But it wasn’t enough,″ she said. ″Each child in Oakland is loved, and loved dearly. We do everything in our power to make school a healthyplace and a happy place. But at this time, we feel helpless.″

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