'She was a great kid'
'She was a great kid'
By Sara Burnett, Rocky Mountain News
September 28, 2006
BAILEY - Just about everyone in town knew Emily Keyes, the friendly high school girl who waited tables at the Cutthroat Cafe downtown.
She was the girl with the ever-present smile and no shortage of "please" and "thank yous."
So when news spread through this mountain town Wednesday that it was 16-year-old Emily who was shot and killed during a standoff at Platte Canyon High School, the shock was felt everywhere.
Friends rushed to St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver where Emily was airlifted. A devastated group of young people gathered at the cafe. A special rosary was held at St. Mary of the Rockies Church. And at the Woodside Inn in nearby Pine, three grown women sat at the bar and cried.
"This whole community is affected by this," said Chip Thomas, owner of the Cutthroat Cafe. "I mean, you're talking Bailey, Colorado. For something like this to happen, it touches everyone."
Thomas said he hired Emily about two years ago. The high school junior worked three or four days a week, when she wasn't busy with speech or volleyball.
"She was a great kid," Thomas said.
Monte Fisher, of Bailey, said he watched Emily grow up. Fisher's step-daughter, Jessica Leedom, met Emily in second grade and the two were best friends.
"She was like part of our family," Fisher said.
Emily, who has a twin brother, Casey, always would thank Fisher and his wife for letting her come over, Fisher said. On her way out the door, she would hug them goodbye.
"Out of all of Jessica's friends, she was our favorite," Fisher said. "She was one of the nicest girls. Just a real sweetheart."
Shawn Swigert, 15, said Emily did such an outstanding job on a world history paper that her teacher read it out loud to his class of sophomores Wednesday morning because she wanted the underclassmen to hear an example of the kind of work she wanted from them.
The paper was set in medieval times, and a boy died in the end, Swigert said while attending the rosary at St. Mary of the Rockies.
Bishop Michael Sheridan, of Colorado Springs, performed the service. He said Emily was still alive when he left Colorado Springs for Bailey. "We hoped to pray for her recovery," Sheridan told about 60 people. "But now we must pray for her family."
Copyright 2006, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.
2006 © The E.W. Scripps Co.
Events in Bailey rattle Columbine survivors
By Lynn Bartels, Rocky Mountain News
September 27, 2006
Connie Michalick and her son, Richard Castaldo, sat in a Social Security office this morning, trying to explain to a newcomer to Colorado about the Columbine shootings that left Castaldo paralyzed.
Michalick turned on her television this afternoon to see frightened students running for school buses.
"Oh my God," she said. "This is actually giving me chills. I want to cry.
"I hope some poor parent doesn’t have to stand and wait for a bus and a child who doesn’t come home."
A hostage situation at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey revived harrowing memories for those parents whose children who attended Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.
Terry Savage’s son, John, was in the school library that day when seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold stormed Columbine.
John, who was hiding under a table, moved. One gunmen said, "Halt, who goes there?"
John knew Klebold and asked him what he was doing.
"I’m killing people," Klebhold calmly replied.
"Are you going to kill me?" John asked.
"No, get out of here," Klebold said.
John escaped, but his parents wouldn’t know that for more than two frantic hours.
"I get very tense when I think about it," Savage said in a trembling voice. "This thing in Bailey brings back memories, doesn’t it?"
Klebold and Harris killed 12 students and a teacher before commiting suicide.
They injured about two dozen more, including Castaldo, a junior who was sitting outside the school with friends when he was shot in the chest, back and arm.
His mother recalled waiting at nearby Leawood Elementary School for hours that day.
After police finally stormed Columbine, classrooms were emptied and students ran from the schools to waiting buses that took them to Leawood.
"We were all standing there and a bus would come. You would look for your child. You would say, ‘Surely he’ll be on the next bus.’ The crowd kept getting smaller and smaller and finally they said, ‘That’s the last bus,'" Michalick said.
"The parents that were left were in a panic. It was excruciating."
Only then did she learn that her son was in the hospital.
In the days that followed, TV stations endlessly replayed footage of students running from the school to the buses.
Michalick said it seemed almost unreal to think that earlier Wednesday, she and her son were talking about the Columbine shootings with a Social Security administrator.
Castaldo, now 25, is a paraplegic and receives disability payments.
Michalick said the Bailey situation on top of shootings recently in Montreal are too much to compehend.
"This is just horrible," she said. "I just don't know what the answer is."
Another Columbine parent, Sue Townsend, had also waited that day at Leawood for a bus that never came. Her stepdaughter, Lauren Townsend, had been killed in the library.
Sue Townsend heard about the hostage situation at Platte Canyon High School on the radio, but declined to immediately turn on the TV.
"It just dredges up all those emotions," she said. "I don’t want to relive it.
"I’ll say a prayer for the families involved."
Copyright 2006, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.
2006 © The E.W. Scripps Co.
Hostage texted love to family before she was shot
POSTED: 7:42 p.m. EDT, September 28, 2006
BAILEY, Colorado (CNN) -- As 16-year-old Emily Keyes was being held hostage by a gunman in the last hours of her life, she tapped out one last text message to her family: "I love u guys."
Police released the text message and a photo of Keyes on Thursday, as they continued to investigate the Wednesday incident in classroom 206 at Platte Canyon High School.
Keyes was one of two girls whose screams spurred SWAT teams to storm a Colorado classroom where a gunman was holding them hostage, officials said Thursday.
Duane Morrison, 53, had already sexually assaulted and "traumatized" the students when the raid was ordered to end the Wednesday standoff, Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said.
Morrison used Keyes as a human shield when the officers burst in. Morrison shot her in the back of her head when she tried to escape, Joe Morales, executive director of Colorado's Department of Public Safety, told reporters.
The gunman then shot himself. When his body was removed from the classroom, authorities found a semi-automatic pistol and a revolver on him, the sheriff said. (Watch sheriff reveal what happened after the gunman was pinned down in a classroom -- 3:05)
Morrison had told the police he had a bomb in his backpack, Wegener said, but after it was over, he said, "It looks like there was nothing in the backpack."
Keyes was taken by helicopter to a Denver hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Morrison, who had an arrest record in neighboring Jefferson County and was wanted on a fugitive-from-justice warrant, took six girls hostage inside a classroom of Platte Canyon High School, in Bailey Colorado.
He released four students one-by-one in a three-hour standoff but negotiations then broke down.
Wegener said the gunman threatened that something would happen at 4 p.m.
"It was then decided that a tactical solution needed to be done in an effort to save the two hostages that were in the room," Wegener said.
The screams from the hostages "moved up the tempo of the operation a bit," Morales said.
Wegener said: "We had to go try and save them."
He added that any motive for the attack was "still a mystery."
In an interview with KOKI in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the gunman's father, Bob Morrison, described his son as "just different" and "a loner."
Mom: My son lied
A purported witness to the standoff said the gunman wanted to take only girls hostage, but his mother said later that her son was lying.
Cassidy Grigg, 16, told NBC's "Today" that the gunman fired a warning shot as he entered the classroom, then lined up the students in front of a chalkboard.
However, Grigg's mother said he was in a nearby computer lab when he heard the commotion. Grigg went to check it out but was turned away by his teacher, his mother said.
Larina Grigg elaborated to the Rocky Mountain News, saying her son "wants to say he's sorry. I know and he knows he made a huge mistake. He lost one of his dear friends."
She added that Cassidy wanted to be a hero and "got caught up in the chaos" of television crews scrambling to interview him.
Grigg told "Today" that Keyes "was one of my first friends." (Read how Emily will be remembered as a 'great kid')
"She was always sweet, she always welcomed people," he said. "She was just friendly, she was a good person in general."
'Scared to death'
Authorities have searched Morrison's car, in which he appeared to be living, the sheriff said.
Wegener said the suspect did not have much of a criminal history and only minor things were on his record.
Bailey is not far from Columbine, where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves in 1999.
"I know we talk about the Columbine connection," Wegener said. "This is something that has changed my school, changed my community.
"My small county is gone," he added.
"I've gone from upset to angry that this man has done this to our community, has done this to our children," Wegener said.
On Wednesday, Wegener said he was "scared to death" as he was deciding whether to order police to storm the classroom.
"Nobody wants anything to happen like this at their school," said Wegener. He said his own son was in the building. Asked whether he was second-guessing his decision, Wegener said, "I have to go and eventually I have to face a family about the fact their daughter is dead. So what would you do?"
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Colo. school attack 'sexual in nature'
By CATHERINE TSAI, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 28, 12:19 PM ET
"He did traumatize and assault our children," Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said. "I'll only say that it's sexual in nature."
Wegener identified the suspect as Duane R. Morrison, 53, and said was he from the Denver area but had been living in his car. He said investigators had not established any previous connection between him and the hostages.
State records showed he was arrested in July in the west Denver suburb of Lakewood on a charge of obstructing police in another suburb. He was also arrested for larceny and marijuana possession in 1973.
Authorities said Morrison had let four of the hostages go before a SWAT team stormed the Platte Canyon High School classroom where he had been cornered Wednesday.
The gunman fatally wounded one of the girls and killed himself as the deputies charged in. The other girl escaped.
The victim was identified by acquaintances and a co-worker as 16-year-old Emily Keyes, shown in a yearbook photo as a smiling blonde who played volleyball and was on the high school debate team.
She was pronounced dead at a Denver hospital after Wednesday's standoff, which reminded many people of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High, less than an hour's drive away.
"This is something that has changed my school, changed my community," said Wegener, a 36-year resident of Bailey. "My small county's gone."
Wegener said Morrison made few demands. "Most of the demands were, 'Leave me alone, get out of here,'" he said.
Asked about his decision to storm the classroom, Wegener said:
"Being a sheriff in a small community, knowing all the parents, knowing the kids — my daughter graduated last year, my son's a junior here — it is very difficult. Because I'd want whoever was in my position to do the same thing. And that is to save lives," he said.
Morrison began the takeover by ordering students to line up at the chalk board as he tapped each with his gun and told them to stay or go, a student in the classroom said.
Cassidy Grigg, 16, said the man walked in, fired a warning shot at the floor and ordered the students to line up. He told some to leave and others — all girls — to stay.
"You could tell that he wanted the females," Cassidy said on NBC's "Today" Thursday. "He tapped me on the shoulder and he told me to leave the room. I told him, 'I don't want to leave.'"
"He told me that if I didn't go then he would pretty much kill me," Cassidy told ABC's "Good Morning America." "I noticed that he wanted to keep the females in the class. That's the main reason why I didn't want to go because I'm sure the girls would have felt more support if there would have been some males in the class with them."
No one recognized the man, who seemed to be dressed as a student, Cassidy said.
"He was just an old guy who came on a mission, and I think he got what he wanted," he told "Today."
"We are a community in mourning," schools superintendent Jim Walpole said. "Our thoughts, our prayers are with our students, staff and their families. Especially the family of the student we lost."
Residents gathered quietly Thursday morning at the Cutthroat Cafe, where Keyes had been a waitress for about two years, to grieve and remember, said Bobbi Sterling, a waitress and cook there.
"It's very sad here. You know, the family lost their daughter but as a community, we lost a child," she said. "We're just sitting here, numb and in shock. We're all just kind of stunned. People are here for mutual support."
Wegener was at a loss to explain a motive.
"I don't know why he wanted to do this," Wegener said, his voice breaking.
The gunman claimed he had explosives in a backpack and was wielding a handgun, authorities said. He released four hostages one by one, then abruptly cut off communication with authorities and set a deadline that forced authorities to act.
He said authorities used explosives as they entered the classroom, only to have the suspect fire at officers, shoot one of the girls and then himself.
School was canceled for the rest of the week at the high school and the adjoining middle school in this tiny mountain town.
The lines of students fleeing the schools, the bomb squads and the frantic parents scrambling to find their loved ones evoked memories of the Columbine attack, where two students killed 13 people before taking their own lives.
Michael Owens, who has one son at the middle school and another in the high school, said the anxiety was worse because the memory of Columbine was still fresh.
"Things that are out of your control, you just do what you can do," he said. "It's like an earthquake."
Sophomore Zack Barnes, 16, said his class moved to a room that turned out to be next to the one where the hostages were being held. They turned out the lights and sat in silence in the dark for about 20 minutes before police guided them out.
"I was just praying it wasn't a mass killing," Barnes said.
The schools have an enrollment of about 770 students, with 460 in the high school.
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