What tragic news out of Wisconsin Monday and Tuesday! I’m sure you have already heard by now of the tragedy in Marinette, a city of about 12,000 people which lies about 50 miles north of Green Bay on the border of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where sophomore Samuel Hengel shot himself after holding a class of high school students and their teacher hostage for about six and a half hours. It has got to be one of the most unusual school hostage situations we have ever heard about.
If you read or listened to coverage of this strange story, Samuel did not come into class with the weapons but left to go to the restroom and returned with a duffel bag containing two guns and ammunition. Zach Campbell, a hostage who was interviewed, reported that Samuel began this nightmare event by shooting at the projector as the class was watching a movie in the dark. He reported that at no time did Samuel shoot at any students although he did fire other shots. Zach said he appeared depressed and yet the students maintained a conversation with him during this stand-off where they discussed hunting and fishing. Apparently Samuel was laughing and chatting, and Zach said he didn’t think that Samuel meant to hurt anyone.
Another unusual piece to this puzzle was that Samuel let a girl leave after her mother tried to call her and was unable to get through. And later, Zach asked if he could use the bathroom, and Samuel let him go. It was at this point that Zach escaped to be followed a little later by four more students who asked to use the bathroom as well. It sure doesn’t sound like this young man planned to harm his fellow classmates, which leads you to wonder what the heck his plan was, if he even had one.
How tragic that this boy killed himself when the police battered down the door after more random shots were fired! But thankfully, no one else was hurt and all of the students and the teacher who had been held for so many hours got out safely. Now the tough question will need to be answered: What made Samuel crack in such a dreadful way? Was this tragedy the result of bullying or harassment at school? Or did Samuel’s break from reality have roots in problems at home or something psychological? Some terrible questions will have to be asked and answered which will cause more pain for the students and families of the city of Marinette. And the residual effects of being held hostage and fearing for your life will require much counseling and healing.
I’m sure all of our thoughts and prayers go out to this community. We can only hope that swift answers will come and with those answers, healing may occur.