Town Still Shaken 18 Years After Tragic Mill Shootings
LOCK HAVEN, Pa. (AP) _ It is a mystery that has grown up with the children of this quiet, close- knit community in the heart of Pennsylvania.
Why, on that day 18 years ago, did Leo Held, a family man never before in trouble, set off on a shooting spree that left six people dead, six others wounded and a town painfully aware of its tragic past?
Why did Held walk through the Hammermill Paper Co. plant, where he worked for 21 years, shortly before 8 a.m. on Oct. 23, 1967, shooting certain co- workers while passing others by?
Why did he then head for the town’s small airport, where he shot and wounded a woman with whom he had car-pooled for 11 years? And why did he then seek out his across-the-street neighbors in Loganton, a tiny farming community about 16 miles south of here, and shoot the couple in bed, killing the man?
The reasons may never be fully understood - Held died two days later of wounds from the police shootout that ended his terrifying 11/2 -hour spree. Most who remember the day don’t like to talk about it.
Hammermill Paper and Held’s wife, who still lives in the area, refuse to discuss it, and police won’t divulge all they know, believing it’s best to let the town forget.
But people in Lock Haven, especially those directly touched by the shootings, haven’t forgotten. Their hands still shake, their eyes tear up, some chain-smoke when describing that autumn day.
James Allen, a mill chemist and one of those Held seriously wounded, remembers all too vividly, and he’s still looking for the answers.
″I was working at the desk in my office″ in one of the mill’s laboratories, Allen recalled haltingly, tears in his eyes. ″Leo came through the door and started shooting at Jack Barrett. He shot Jack and then he shot Dick (Carter).″ Barrett died; Carter survived.
″I went out in the lab and I asked him what he was doing. He backed up and when he got even with me, he shot me,″ continued the 64-year-old Allen, who spent three weeks in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound that punctured both lungs and ruptured his diaphragm.
″I didn’t know what he was doing. I didn’t even realize he was shooting... If I’d kept my mouth shut and hadn’t interfered I wouldn’t have been involved.″
Allen said he tried to get information about the investigation recently from the district attorney, but was told there was no information.
″Leo Held died so there was never any follow up on it,″ he said.
State police Trooper John Keeler, the first on the bloody scene, also remembers - ″like it just happened,″ he said.
Keeler probably knows the most about why Held did what he did, but he’ll only tell part of the story.
″You don’t go into a specific area and shoot a couple of people and not others. He knew exactly who he wanted to shoot,″ Keeler said.
Held had been the butt of a few jokes at work, he said. ″People were out to get him, he thought. No one was out to get him. It was all in his mind.″
Keeler refused to discuss other theories he has about motives for the shooting and Held’s background, saying the case died with Leo Held.
″We’re a small community and we just want it to rest,″ he said. ″People are still affected by this. People never forget. It was a tragic event.″