Platte Canyon High School hostage crisis

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Platte Canyon High School hostage crisis
LocationBailey, Colorado, United States
DateSeptember 27, 2006
11:40 a.m. - 3:45 p.m. (UTC-6)
TargetPlatte Canyon High School
Attack typeSchool shooting, murder-suicide, hostage taking, sexual assault
Weapon(s)Glock 22
Deaths2 (including the perpetrator)
PerpetratorDuane Roger Morrison
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Platte Canyon High School hostage crisis
LocationBailey, Colorado, United States
DateSeptember 27, 2006
11:40 a.m. - 3:45 p.m. (UTC-6)
TargetPlatte Canyon High School
Attack typeSchool shooting, murder-suicide, hostage taking, sexual assault
Weapon(s)Glock 22
Deaths2 (including the perpetrator)
PerpetratorDuane Roger Morrison

The Platte Canyon High School hostage crisis was an incident of a hostage taking and shooting that occurred at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado, on September 27, 2006. The gunman, 53-year-old[1] Duane Roger Morrison entered the school building, claiming to be carrying a bomb. Morrison had been imprisoned in 1973 for larceny and possession of marijuana, and was arrested on a separate occasion for obstructing police in Littleton, Colorado.[2] He was initially reported as a bearded 35-year-old man with a camouflage backpack[3] and black hooded sweatshirt.[4] Morrison took six female students hostage and sexually assaulted them, later releasing four. When police broke open the classroom's door with explosives, Morrison opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol before shooting hostage Emily Keyes in the head. The other remaining hostage escaped unharmed, and paramedics confirmed that Morrison had committed suicide shortly before police were able to enter the classroom. Keyes was pronounced dead at 4:32 p.m. MDT (23:32 UTC) at Saint Anthony's Hospital in Denver, Colorado after undergoing emergency surgery.[5]



Entry and hostage-taking

Events preceding the shooting[6]
Note: All times below are in Mountain Daylight Time, UTC-6
8:42 a.m.Morrison's Jeep is seen arriving in the upper administration parking lot.
8:44 a.m.Morrison's Jeep departs.
8:46 a.m.Morrison's Jeep is seen in the space where it will later be discovered. It departs eleven minutes later.
9:44 a.m.Morrison's Jeep returns.
10:53 a.m.Morrison exits Jeep.
11:40:59 a.m.First call from school to Park County Sheriff's office.
11:43:28 a.m.First officer arrives at school.
Note: All times are in Mountain Daylight Time, UTC-6

About 11:40 a.m.,[4] Morrison entered the school carrying a .40-caliber Glock 22 pistol [7] and a backpack, which he claimed contained explosives. One report attributed to the local police stated that Morrison fired a single shot using his handgun when a teacher did not do what he asked.[8]

A sixteen-year-old student named Katrina Keller reportedly saw Morrison entering the school before the time specified by police. She stated that she had been walking past a vacant classroom and saw a man inside wearing a hooded sweatshirt, apparently angry. Keller did not report the incident to the school office.[2] Other students reported that they witnessed Morrison sitting in a yellow Jeep in the school parking lot at around 10:45 a.m., almost an hour before he entered the school. Morrison was believed to have been living in the car, camping out near Bailey.[9] Videos taken from security cameras outside show that Morrison was in his Jeep for at least 20 minutes, mingling with students as classes changed, 35 minutes before the siege began. Earlier, Morrison had spoken to a male high school student that day and "asked about the identity of a list of female students."[10]

After entering a classroom on the second floor, where teacher Sandra Smith taught Honors English, Morrison fired his handgun into the air and instructed all of the students to stand facing the chalkboard. Park County sheriff Fred Wegener informed the media that all the girls were molested, though he did not know "how much or to what degree."[11] Lynna Long, a 15-year-old sophomore and one of the six hostages, stated that Duane Morrison lined the girls up facing a chalkboard and then sexually assaulted all of them;[12] Long stated that she knew that the other hostages were being molested because of "the rustling of clothes and elastic being snapped and zippers being opened and closed."[10]

Negotiations and evacuations

A "code white" alert was sounded over the intercom and students were instructed to remain in their classrooms.[13] Negotiations with Morrison began with the goal of allowing the six remaining hostages in the room to be released.[4] He spoke via telephone and used the student hostages as relayers between the negotiators and himself, as he did not want to speak directly with officials. After four of the six girls were released, negotiators heightened the intensity of their indirect discussions with Morrison.[4] During this time Keyes managed to send her family a brief text message stating, "I love u guys"[1] in response to a text message ("R U OK?") her father, John-Michael Keyes, had sent using his cell phone after receiving word that an incident was occurring at the high school. When Keyes' father sent the message "Where are you?", he received no response.[14]

A total of 800 students from both Platte Canyon High School and the nearby Fitzsimmons Middle School were rapidly evacuated.[8] Morrison's demands were unknown, although police confirmed that his primary concern was a request for the police to back away. All students, except the hostages, were safely evacuated by 12:10 p.m.[15] and by 3:00 p.m. all had been taken to Deer Creek Elementary School.[4] Parents were able to gain little information from authorities, who remained silent regarding the issue while the crisis continued.[13]


1. Emily Keyes killed by gunshot wound to the head.
2. Duane R. Morrison (gunman) committed suicide.

By the time the four student hostages were released, a bomb squad, SWAT team from Jefferson County, and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were sent to the scene.[15] Ambulances parked in the end zone of the high school's football field.[13] A 4-mile (6 km) stretch of U.S. Route 285 was closed. Morrison explicitly stated that he would stop negotiating at 4:00 p.m.[4]

Sheriff Fred Wegener (whose son was in the school building at the time of the incident)[5] said that police had chosen to storm the second-floor classroom after the man ended negotiations,[8] stating that "something would happen at 4 p.m." SWAT team members witnessed Morrison assaulting the girls, and Wegener made the decision to save the hostages by force, stating later, "My decision was either wait—[and have the] possibility of having two dead hostages or act and try to save what I feared he would do to them. ... Because I'd want whoever was in my position to do the same thing, and that is to save lives."[2] The police burst through the door at approximately 3:45 p.m. After using the hostages as human shields against the Jefferson County SWAT team, Morrison shot at the policemen,[5] and then at hostage 16-year-old junior Emily Keyes,[4] who was trying to run.[14] Morrison committed suicide soon thereafter.[15] Keyes was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Denver, where she was pronounced dead at 4:32 p.m. The other hostage survived with no physical injuries.[8] Investigators found no sign of explosives in the man's backpack,[15] but an assault rifle was found in a clearing adjacent to a river about a mile north of the school.[10]

The coroner of Park County, Sharon Morris, confirmed that the body of Morrison (which had four bullet wounds, three nonfatal from police and one fatal shot from his own gun)[9] was still in the second-floor classroom as of 6:00 p.m. District officials stated that both the high school and Fitzsimmons Middle School would be closed for September 28 and September 29; a counseling center set up at a local church would open at 7:00 a.m. for students.[5]


Platte Canyon High School reopened a week after the shooting on October 5. Memorials had been erected along the highway leading to the school that carried messages such as "Be Strong" and "Random Acts of Kindness". A number of students prayed in front of the school before the day began and students were given donated teddy bears as they left. Fifty counselors were present during the day for students.[16][17] Superintendent Dr. James Walpole noted that of 460 high school students, only 10 were absent.[14]

The service for Emily Keyes was held on September 30, the day that Governor Bill Owens later declared "Emily Keyes Day".[18] About 5,000 motorcyclists took part in the "Columbine to Canyon Ride", which occurred in memory of the victims of both the Columbine and Platte Canyon disasters. The procession of motorcycles was so long that the first to get to Platte Canyon High School arrived as the final motorcyclists departed from Columbine High School, two riding alongside each other.[19]

The efforts initiated toward increased school security had come to a standstill several years after the Columbine High School massacre as federal and state funding toward safety was cut in favor of higher test scores. Although an increase in communication with law enforcement was evident in the Platte Canyon High School shooting, Del Elliot of the University of Colorado noted that "[the vast majority of school districts] are so totally absorbed with CSAP and academic requirements that they aren't spending a lot of time and resources on this issue".[20]

By October 11, investigators had conducted 124 interviews and had found 174 pieces of evidence related to the case. They were also investigating the Amish school shooting in Pennsylvania, which had occurred five days after the shooting in Bailey. As a result of the September 27 incident, Platte Canyon High School increased its security, leaving only one school entrance unlocked. It plans to install more security cameras. Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener proposed having a guard there during the school day, but he stated that that particular suggestion was outside the current budget.[6]

Police announced that a suicide letter written by perpetrator Duane Morrison to a family member was being analyzed by the FBI. Morrison's family gave the letter to police, who then submitted the document to the FBI Behavioral Unit in Quantico, Virginia.[19]


  1. ^ a b CNN. "Colorado Sheriff: High School Assault of Sexual Nature". Retrieved September 28, 2006. 
  2. ^ a b c Anslee Willett and Dennis Huspeni. "Gunman assaulted girls before killing himself". The Gazette. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved September 28, 2006. 
  3. ^ CBS. "Student, Gunman Die In Bailey Standoff". Archived from the original on September 28, 2006. Retrieved September 27, 2006. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g The Denver Post (September 27, 2006). "Gunman, hostage die". Retrieved September 27, 2006. 
  5. ^ a b c d Rocky Mountain News. "High school hostages were sexually assaulted". Archived from the original on October 16, 2006.,1299,DRMN_15_5024828,00.html. Retrieved September 27, 2006. 
  6. ^ a b 7 News (Denver). "Bailey Shooting Investigators Release Timeline". Retrieved November 23, 2006. 
  7. ^ Jim Spencer (March 30, 2007). "Firearms culture gives a 15-gun salute to irony". Denver Post. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  8. ^ a b c d BBC World News (September 28, 2006). "US school siege ends in bloodshed". BBC News. Retrieved September 27, 2006. 
  9. ^ a b Rocky Mountain News. "Student admits he lied to TV news shows". Archived from the original on September 29, 2006.,1299,DRMN_15_5027867,00.html. Retrieved September 28, 2006. 
  10. ^ a b c The Gazette. "Bailey gunman wrote of coming death". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved September 30, 2006. 
  11. ^ CNN. "Sheriff: School shooter sent letter to say sorry". Retrieved September 29, 2006. 
  12. ^ WBBM News Radio Chicago. "Colorado Gunman Said Sent Letter Warning of Death". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 29, 2006. 
  13. ^ a b c The Age (September 28, 2006). "US school hostage dies in hospital". Melbourne. Retrieved September 27, 2006. 
  14. ^ a b c Rocky Mountain News. "Bailey victim's parents praise police". Archived from the original on November 12, 2006.,1299,DRMN_15_5045175,00.html. Retrieved November 23, 2006. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Gunman, hostage dead after high school siege". Archived from the original on September 28, 2006. Retrieved September 27, 2006. 
  16. ^ The Gazette. "Bailey schools resume classes". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2006. 
  17. ^ St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "High school reopens a week after shooting". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved November 23, 2006. [dead link]
  18. ^ Ann Schrader (October 6, 2006). "Memory ride expected to roar". The Denver Post. Retrieved November 23, 2006. 
  19. ^ a b (October 8, 2006). "Thousands Ride In Honor Of Slain Student". Retrieved November 23, 2006. 
  20. ^ Jennifer Brown and Kevin Simpson (September 27, 2006). "Momentum for school safety at standstill". The Denver Post. Retrieved November 23, 2006. 

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