Police shoot teen at school after he points pellet gun

Kelli Kennedy Associated Press Jan. 14, 2006 12:00 AM

LONGWOOD, Fla. - An eighth-grader was wounded by a SWAT team officer in a school bathroom Friday after he pulled out a pellet gun that resembled a real weapon and raised it at deputies, authorities said.

Sheriff Don Eslinger said the 15-year-old boy brought the gun to Milwee Middle School in his backpack. Eslinger said two students saw it and one persuaded the other to report it, causing a scuffle.

The alleged gunman told one of the students to go into a closet, dimmed the lights and ran from the classroom. He then "traveled with this firearm throughout the campus," Eslinger said. Deputies eventually isolated him in a restroom, and the school was evacuated.

Eslinger said negotiators tried unsuccessfully to start a dialogue with the boy, identified as Christopher David Penley.

"He did not respond," Eslinger said. "He refused to even comment. All he said was his first name. He did not drop the firearm."

When the boy raised the gun at a deputy, he shot the youth, the sheriff said.

Penley was taken to the hospital, where he was on "advanced life support" Friday, the sheriff said.

"He was suicidal," Eslinger said. "During this standoff, and during the chase, the student said he was going to kill himself or die." At one point, the boy held the gun to his own neck.

No one else was injured. The sheriff's office confirmed later that the weapon was a pellet gun fashioned to look like a 9mm handgun.

Investigators had not determined why Penley brought the weapon to school. "We are looking into his past, and all kinds of different issues possibly." Eslinger said.

Classes were canceled for the rest of the day, and frantic parents arrived to pick up their children from the 1,100-student public school in suburban Orlando.

"When I saw the news, I just couldn't believe this was my daughter's school. I came right away," said Anil Santos, whose daughter, Aleister, is in eighth grade.

Sarah Tivy, 12, said some students were frightened, but she appeared calm.

"I just figured that if someone is going to bring a gun to school, then they need to be taken out of school," she said.

As dusk fell, Marie Hargis stood in front of the school with a sign that read "Stop the violence." Her 14-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter attend Milwee.

"My youngest daughter is just very emotionally messed up. She started crying and said, 'Mommy, I don't want to go back.' They should not fear having to go to school."

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