Gunman at NY High School in Custody

Man held principal hostage but students are safe, authorities said

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    The son of Robert F. Kennedy has been charged with harassment and endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly clashing with two nurses who tried to stop him from taking his 2-day-old baby boy from a Westchester maternity unit. Douglas Kennedy and his wife called the charges "absurd" and said the nurses were in the wrong. Jonathan Dienst reports. This story was published Feb. 24, 2012 at 11:31 p.m.

    A shotgun wielding man held a school administrator hostage upstate for more than an hour this morning before surrendering to police without firing a shot, officials said. No one was injured.

    Officials said the man in custody is 42-year-old Christopher Craft of Pine Plains and the hostage was Stissing Mountain Middle School Principal Robert Hess.

    Craft allegedly came in to speak to Hess, but never threatened to harm him, officials said at a press conference.

    The Stissing Mountain middle and high schools share a campus.

    Trooper Tom Jones Jr. said police are going room by room through the combined middle and senior high schools as a precaution, evacuating students as they go.

    "Evidently, there is some speculation that he (the gunman) had a loved one in the military and somehow this is some contrived scheme on his part to do something about that,'' Pine Plains Town Supervisor Gregg Pulver told said.

    Police were in contact with the suspect throughout the standoff, he said.

    Deputy Sheriff T. J. Hanlon said that Craft was "related to the school in that he's a local person" but didn't have any information as to any other connection the suspect might have to the school. But officials did say that Craft had children who had attended the school in the past.

    "Based upon [Craft's] statement it had nothing to do with any recent incident at the school," said Dutchess County Sheriff Adrian Anderson.

    Officials said that Craft would be charged with kidnapping in the first degree, criminal tresspassing and criminal possession of a weapon.

    Pulver said counseling will made available to students. The students are being loaded onto buses and taken to a highway garage to be accounted for before being sent back to school, according to Lt. Tom Lasher of the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office.

    The school about 90 miles north of New York City was on lockdown just after school began Tuesday with the gunman and his hostage contained to one room. Students and other faculty members were locked in other rooms.

    After the man surrendered, armed officers could be seen standing guard at the front door of the school. The handcuffed man was led to an ambulance, where he was checked by paramedics.

    The high school has about 500 students, while the middle school has about 300 students.

    Parents were told to gather in a parking lot at a restaurant a couple of blocks from school. Hundreds of people, including parents and other townspeople, were milling around an intersection near the school, which sits in a rural valley amid rolling hill.

    Lisa Pusello, whose son is a sixth grader at the school, said she heard about the incident by phone from a girlfriend.

    "I'm thinking the whole time, 'How can this happen in our little town?''' she said as she waited for her child.