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Idaho School Hostage Standoff Ends

April 10, 1998 GMT

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) _ A five-hour standoff between an armed student and police ended peacefully after officers delivered on the 14-year-old gunman’s demands: pizza, soda and cigarettes.

After initially holding about a dozen students inside The Alternate School for troubled youths Thursday, Mitchell Gushwa let them leave. Four students remained with Gushwa voluntarily until he gave up, police said.

``The release of hostages was never an issue of the negotiations,″ Lt. Garry Pritchett said. ``They wanted food, alcohol and tobacco.″

The standoff began about 8:30 a.m. as principal Paul Matthews, a secretary, three teachers and about 20 students met in the multipurpose room. Matthews had just begun his daily routine of explaining what would be on the students’ agenda when Gushwa pulled a gun.

Gushwa ordered the teachers into another room and fired a shot into the ceiling above a door, police said. The principal, secretary, teachers and about half the students made it out of the school after Gushwa pulled the gun.

After police refused Gushwa’s initial demand for liquor and cigarettes, he agreed about 90 minutes after the standoff began to trade a .22 semiautomatic for three packs of Marlboros. He later gave up his .45-caliber semiautomatic for a large Domino’s combination pizza, a variety of soda pop, bags of chips and a hat to hide his face when he emerged.

``If I can trade a pack of cigarettes for the life of a 14-year-old, I’ll do it any day,″ Pritchett said. Police believe the guns were stolen in a burglary.

Gushwa, an eighth-grader who had been at the school for about a month, was held pending a psychological evaluation. Capt. Kirk Nelson said some of the other students may also face criminal charges.

Pocatello, with about 50,000 residents, is in southeastern Idaho, about 200 miles east of Boise.