Stirling lights a candle for Arkansas dead;Murder

27th March 1998 at 00:00
Reportedly jilted by his girlfriend, a 13-year-old Arkansas boy and his 11-year-old cousin hid in the woods, lured their classmates outside with a false fire alarm and fatally shot five students and a teacher on Tuesday. Eleven other students and teachers, including the boy's girlfriend, were injured, six critically.

It was the third fatal shooting in a US school in five months. Altogether, guns have claimed nine lives and injured 18 students and teachers. "We have reached a point where he have to analyse these incidents to see whether or not we can learn anything and what we can do to prevent further ones," President Clinton said in Africa, where he was informed about the killings during a visit.

Flowers and candles were left outside Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, after Tuesday's shootings, and classes were cancelled indefinitely.

Ron Taylor, former head of Dunblane primary who is currently seconded to the Scottish Office, said he was saddened, shocked and appalled as news of the latest gun tragedy unfolded.

"My heart goes out in particular to the bereaved families and to the entire Westside Middle School community in Jonesboro. I also feel for the Dunblane families for whom this will have been particularly shocking news.

"I know what the Westside headteacher and staff will be going through and the prayers of all of us at Dunblane primary school are with them during this most difficult time" Mr Taylor added: "It is difficult to offer hope but in time with support and love, things will improve and I'm sure that the school will recover. As we in Dunblane know only too well, this is a very difficult time for everyone and the healing process will be long and hard but perhaps some good may come of this in terms of greater world-wide appreciation of the dangers posed by the private ownership of guns" Stirling council officers are ready to offer advice if required.

Gordon Jeyes, Stirling's director of education, advised staff at Westside they had to deal with the issue as a community. "They have to ensure there is space for learning and teaching. They also have to watch children's reactions, particularly during their adolescent years. Personal and social development will be very much to the fore. They will have to appreciate the pressures teachers are under."

Authorities said Mitchell Johnson, 13, and his cousin, Andrew Golden, 11, donned camouflage shirts, pants and hats and armed themselves with rifles and Golden allegedly triggered the school's fire alarm early on Tuesday.

As classmates and teachers filed outside, the boys fired 27 shots at them from a hiding place behind some trees. The two were caught while running towards a cache of extra ammunition they had hidden in a van.

"We thought it was just firecrackers," said student Brandy George. "But then I saw one of my teachers get shot."

Friends said Johnson was angry that that he had been jilted by Kim Candace Porter. One classmate, Jamie Clevenger, said the boy had told him he "had a lot of killing to do". Kim is expected to recover.

"I thought he was just kidding around," said Charles Vanoven, 12, who said he also had heard Johnson make the threats.

Among the dead were three 12-year-olds and an 11-year-old, all girls, and their 32-year-old English teacher, Shannon Wright, who stepped forward to protect a student from a bullet and was wounded in the chest and abdomen. She died later after unsuccessful surgery.

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