Sheriff says gunman in hostage-taking left suicide note
Bailey — The gunman who took six girls hostage in a high school classroom and killed one of them before taking his own life left a suicide note, Sheriff Fred Wegener said Friday.
Wegener did not release the text of the note. He said investigators were analyzing the note’s contents and more details could be made public later in the day.
He said the note had been delivered to a male relative of the gunman in Colorado. He would not identify the relative or say where in the state he lives, but said the man does not live in Bailey, where the hostage-taking took place.
Wegener would not say how the note was delivered. He said it was found yesterday.
He said the note was discovered by investigators after agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms traced ownership of the handgun used in the killing to the relative.
When agents contacted the relative he told them he had received what appeared to be a suicide note.
Authorities say Duane Morrison shot and killed 16-year-old Emily Keyes on Wednesday before killing himself as SWAT team members stormed at Platte Canyon High School classroom.
Morrison molested all of the six girls and sexually assaulted at least two of them, Wegener said Friday. He declined to elaborate.
Authorities say they knew of no connection between Morrison and the hostages he held for four hours after bursting into a college prep English class at the high school.
On Thursday, Wegener said the suspect approached a male high school student Wednesday and “asked about the identity of a list of female students.” The sheriff said he wasn’t sure if it was a written list or names rattled off by Morrison.
It was not disclosed whether the list included Emily Keyes.
KCNC-TV in Denver reported that video from cameras outside the school showed Morrison sitting in his Jeep in the school parking lot for about 20 minutes and then mingling with students as classes changed, nearly 35 minutes before the siege began.
Wegener said the Colorado Bureau of Investigation spent much of Thursday examining an apparent roadside campsite about a mile north of the school, where a resident found trash and an assault rifle.
The sheriff said it was too early to know if the rifle was connected to Morrison.
Investigators said the 53-year-old Morrison was a petty criminal who had a Denver address but apparently had been living in his battered yellow Jeep.
Morrison walked inside the school with two handguns and a backpack that he claimed contained a bomb. Investigators did not say what was in the backpack.
During the siege, Morrison released four hostages. While still holding two girls, he cut off contact with deputies and warned that “something would happen at 4 o’clock,” authorities said.
About a half-hour before the deadline, a SWAT team used explosives to blow a hole in a classroom wall in hopes of getting a clear shot at him. When they couldn’t see him through the gap, they blew the door off the hinges to get inside, said Lance Clem, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.
Morrison fired at the SWAT officers, shot Keyes as she tried to run away and then killed himself, authorities said. During the gun battle, police shot Morrison several times, they said.
The sheriff said he spoke to Emily’s family and explained his decision to try to take Morrison by force.
“They were surprisingly supportive of everything I did,” Wegener told CBS. “They are extraordinary people indicating that are going through a rough time. I hold the responsibility for Emily in my heart. I’ll live with that for the rest of my life.”
Classes were canceled for the rest of the week as the community tried to come to grips with the bloodshed, which evoked memories of the 1999 shooting rampage that left 15 dead at Columbine High School, less than an hour’s drive away.
Louis Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Keyes family, said the girl’s father was among the parents anxiously awaiting word from their children during the standoff. John Keyes had just bought Emily and her twin brother cell phones for their 16th birthday.
“How are U?” a volunteer text-messaged Keyes on her father’s behalf.
At 1:52 p.m., she messaged back, “I love U guys.”
“In memory of Emily we would like everyone to go out and do random acts of kindness, random acts of love to your friends or your neighbors or your fellow students because there is no way to make sense of this,” Gonzalez said. “It’s what Emily would have wanted.”
Student Chelsea Wilson said she was in the classroom when the gunman came in and told the students to line up facing the chalkboard.
“All the hairs on my body stood up,” she said. “I guess I was somewhat praying it was a drill.”
One by one, the gunman started letting students go. Chelsea, a tall brunette, said she was the first to leave. Her mother, Julia Wilson, said she thinks the gunman selected the blond, smaller girls. Keyes’ yearbook photo shows a smiling blond girl with blue eyes.
Chelsea said she heard what might have been a gunshot after she left the classroom.
“He’s a pervert,” she said. “I’m not sure of motivation. I just knew it wasn’t good.”
Residents of this mountain town of about 3,500 gathered Thursday at the Platte Canyon Christian Church for support. Others stopped by the Cutthroat Cafe, where Keyes had worked for about two years.
“It’s very sad here. You know, the family lost their daughter but as a community, we lost a child,” said Bobbi Sterling, a waitress and cook. “We’re just sitting here, numb and in shock. We’re all just kind of stunned.”
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