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Classes Resume at Oklahoma School

December 7, 1999

FORT GIBSON, Okla. (AP) _ The seventh-grader didn’t say anything when classmates greeted him before school. The smart and popular 13-year-old just went under a tree, pulled out a handgun and began firing, fellow students say.

He gave no warnings, leaving friends and this rural community baffled as to what could have motivated the churchgoer and honor roll student to shoot his schoolmates.

``He was always nice to everybody. He was real popular, you would never have known him to do anything like this,″ said Deania Pruitt, an eighth-grade cheerleader.

Four students were shot Monday morning when the teen opened fire outside Fort Gibson Middle School before classes started. One student suffered bumps and bruises. None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

Students returned to classes today, many brought by their parents instead of riding school buses. Officers blocked off the middle school, and all students were directed to the back doors of the high school.

Stanley Washington said he was glad his 13-year-old son Tommy would be back among friends. They sat in their pickup truck in the parking lot trying to figure out which school doors were unlocked.

``It makes you kind of nervous, but it’s best to get back today,″ Washington said. Tommy sat behind the alleged shooter in his technical education class.

``You think about it _ it’s a little scary,″ the seventh-grader said. ``It’ll be nice to see my friends.″

Police and the teen’s attorney wouldn’t release his name due to his age and because charges had not been filed by prosecutors. But schoolmates, including Max Chrisman and Shaila Benjamin, both 13, identified the boy as Seth Trickey.

Authorities said the shooter dropped the emptied, 9 mm semiautomatic handgun as he was approached by science teacher Ronnie Holuby. The teacher grabbed the teen’s arms and pinned him against a brick wall.

Gary Sturm, the chief investigator for the district attorney’s office, estimated as many as 14 spent cartridges littered the ground around the small, slender youth with short, dark hair.

Authorities said they were not aware of any previous trouble involving the teen and didn’t know who owned the gun. He did not leave any notes, and his parents have refused to let him talk with police, authorities said. Officers searched his home and several school lockers.

Prosecutors will not say whether they will try to charge the teen as an adult. They also would not comment if any action would be taken against the parents.

Police Chief Richard Sladen said the teen-ager didn’t show any emotion during the drive from the school to the county jail for a closed, 15-minute detention hearing.

``He didn’t say anything. It was like he was just in a daze of what was going on around him,″ Sladen said.

Counselors were on hand today when classes resumed at the 450-student middle school. All of the district’s 1,850 students were sent home Monday.

Janie Hammons said she discussed the shooting all day Monday with her children. She was waiting in line to drop off 15-year-old Tyler and 11-year-old Daniel Hackman.

``I agree with the school. They should go back right away,″ Ms. Hammons said. ``I don’t want them to be scared to come back to school.″

Max said one of his friends had said hello to the teen shortly before the shooting.

``He just walked right past him, didn’t say anything,″ Max said. ``He set his backpack under a tree and then pulled out a gun and started shooting.″

Shaila said he rode the school bus with the teen-ager. ``He lived in a very nice, very pretty home. Lots of people liked him,″ she said.

She was talking with friends outside the middle school’s front door when she saw the suspect under the tree, pulling something out. ``I heard the shots _ they were going over our heads. We just turned and ran inside.″

Three students remained hospitalized today. A 12-year-old girl was in fair condition with a cheek wound, a 13-year-old was treated for a wound to his forearm and another 13-year-old underwent surgery for a leg wound.

Richard Schindel’s 12-year-old son, Brad, was shot in both arms. He said his son considered the suspect a friend last year but had not spent time with him this year.

``He keeps telling me he doesn’t understand why he’d do it, that he’s (the shooter) fairly well-liked, a nice kid,″ he said. ``He totally believes it was random.″

President Clinton told reporters in Washington that investigators from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were on the scene in Fort Gibson, a mostly blue-collar town of about 3,500 that is 50 miles southeast of Tulsa.

``Our prayers are with each of the children and their families,″ Clinton said.

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