CARO (AP) A 17-year-old gunman who killed himself after a three-hour hostage standoff in his classroom was a somber, polite student who gave no warning beforehand, his principal said yesterday.
“I”ve had people I”ve expelled for threatening to kill people. It wasn”t one of those who did it. It was a kid who never popped up on my radar,” said Erl Nordstrom, principal of the Caro Learning Center, an alternative high school for troubled students.
The school, a two-story building with a dirt driveway, is located 75 miles north of Detroit and 30 miles east of Saginaw in rural farm country. It sits next to railroad tracks and near Camp Tuscola, a state prison facility.
Chris Buschbacher was upset over a breakup with his girlfriend two days before Monday”s standoff, Tuscola County Undersheriff Jim Jashinske said. The teen hid a .22-caliber rifle, a 20-gauge shotgun and a tube of gunpowder in a locker room shower stall sometime Monday.
The girl, who wasn”t named by police, was in a science classroom with a teacher and two other girls when Buschbacher walked in with the guns around 2:40 p.m., Jashinske said.
She and another girl ran to Nordstrom”s office, saying Buschbacher was firing a cap gun. Buschbacher took as hostages Audrea Jackson, 15, and science teacher Joseph Gottler.
When Nordstrom entered the classroom, he found Buschbacher seated at Gottler”s desk.
“He said, “Erl, get out of here,”” Nordstrom said.
The teen then fired a warning shot in Nordstrom”s direction, the principal said. Nordstrom said he shut the classroom door.
Nordstrom, who said he didn”t see the hostages, instructed his secretary to call 911, and he evacuated the building room by room.
After the evacuation, Nordstrom returned to the room.
“I said, “Chris. This has got to stop,”” Nordstrom said, but Buschbacher warned him to shut the door or he”d shoot again, so he did.
After negotiations with sheriff”s Lt. James Giroux, Buschbacher released Jackson in exchange for a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, and freed Gottler about an hour and a half to two hours later. Neither hostage was injured.
The teen”s mother came to the scene, but he refused to speak with her, Jashinske said.
Buschbacher shot himself in the head in the classroom at 6:16 p.m. while a state police emergency response team was preparing to enter the building.
The teen brought the guns from his Caro home where he lived with his mother and stepfather. His father lives in Florida.
Schools in the town don”t have metal detectors, security checkpoints or guards, but 15-year-old Matt Franklin, a sophomore at nearby Caro Community High School, said he wished they did.
“If it happened there, it could happen anywhere,” he said.
Franklin said he didn”t know Buschbacher, but said he lived near the learning center and was afraid during Monday”s standoff.
Caro Superintendent Dennis Anderson said he”s not sure whether the district will add additional security.