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13-Year-Old Kills School Custodian; Hurts Two Others

December 11, 1985 GMT

PORTLAND, Conn. (AP) _ Students still are puzzled over what led a 13-year-old schoolmate on a rampage through their junior high school with a semiautomatic rifle, killing a custodian and injuring two other people.

A seventh-grade student was taken hostage during the 45-minute incident Tuesday at Portland Junior High, police said. The hostage was released and no other students were injured.

An eighth-grader was taken into custody. Authorities did not release his name because of his age but teachers and fellow students identified him as Floyd Warmsley of Portland.

The school’s principal was struck by shattered glass when the youth fired the rifle at a glass panel of an office, and a secretary was shot in the arm.

Custodian David L. Bengston, 36, of Portland, was shot and killed as he helped evacuate students, said state police Sgt. Edward Dailey.

The eighth-grader was held overnight at the state police barracks in Colchester and was to appear in Hartford Juvenile Court today, Dailey said. He was then to be held at the Juvenile Detention Center in Hartford. All juvenile court proceedings are closed and disclosure of charges against those under age 16 is forbidden by state law.

Fellow students described the youth as a ″nice kid″ who began acting strange in recent weeks and who was suspended for wearing a hat in school last week.

The incident apparently began when the student, armed with a 9-mm semiautomatic assault rifle, confronted principal Don Rixon at a first-floor office in the two-story building, Dailey said.

Rixon scrambled into an office and locked the door. The student fired shots through a glass panel and Rixon was struck by glass, Dailey said.

Lynn Haddad, 53, a secretary, was shot in the arm and was listed in good condition at Middlesex Memorial Hospital in Middletown, officials said.

The student then headed toward the second floor, where he encountered Bengston between floors and shot him in the head, Dailey said.

The student took a fellow student hostage in a second-floor classroom, police said. First-floor students were evacuated and students on the second floor took refuge in classrooms as teachers locked doors and overturned desks, officials said.

Police cordoned off the area around the school and the youth surrendered a half-hour later, after his aunt talked to him over the public address system.

Dailey said he had no idea what provoked the shooting.

Students who were evacuated to a supermarket parking lot originally thought there was a fire, but rumors of a shooting spread after police arrived, said 12-year-old Keith Franklin.

″Everybody was kind of scared,″ Franklin said. ″Some kids were worried about their brothers and sisters (left at the school), and they were crying and stuff.″

″He was a nice kid,″ Franklin said of the suspect. ″He liked to fool around a lot. He has been acting strange lately. He has been down low like something’s been wrong with him.″

Gail Lacoss, 13, said she was in the school’s computer room when the gun- toting student entered the room, pulling his hostage by the arm.

″He saw me and came in to talk with me,″ she said. ″...He said he had to get out of here (school) and I asked him if he was going to shoot everybody. He just said he had to get out of here.″

She said the student and hostage then left the room.