Morrison (c. 1952—September
27, 2006) was the lone gunman of Denver, Colorado who
stormed into Platte Canyon High School and took six
female students hostage, killing one of them, identified
as 16-year-old Emily Keyes.
Morrison later shot
and killed himself. Paramedics at the scene pronounced
him dead. Morrison had previous minor legal problems,
including a July 2006 arrest for obstructing police and
a 1973 arrest for larceny and marijuana possession.
Canyon High School shooting
On September 27, 2006, 11:40 AM MDT,
Morrison entered the school carrying a backpack, in
which he had stated there were explosives. A police
report was filed later saying that he fired his handgun
when the teacher did not do what he asked.
He appeared to have no apparent
motive in the classroom, but told the male students to
exit the classroom, leaving him with six female students
hostage. It has been reported that he sexually assaulted
the hostages while in the classroom.
While other students were evacuated
from the school, Morrison allegedly negotiated with law
enforcement about the goal of having all six hostages
released. Only four of the six were released.
Negotiators had raised the intensity of the
conversations with Morrison. When Morrison broke off
negotiations for the last time, the decision was made to
enter the room.
Police broke open the door with
explosives. Morrison then began firing at police and
shot one of the hostages, 16-year-old Emily Keyes,
before taking his own life. The police entered after
Morrison committed suicide, and the injured girl was
taken to a nearby hospital in Denver, where she was
pronounced dead. The other girl Morrison had captured
survived. The investigators did not find any sign of
At 3:40 PM MDT, it was said that a
gurney was removed. In one of them was Keyes; the other
did not have a body. Park County coroner Sharon Morris
was then quoted as saying the body of Morrison was still
in the classroom as of 6 PM. District officials closed
Platte Canyon High School and Fitzsimmons Middle School
immediately after Morrison's crimes, but they have since
Emily Keyes, the victim
The Platte Canyon
High School shooting was an incident that occurred at Platte Canyon
High School in Bailey, Colorado, on September 27, 2006. 53-year-old
Duane Roger Morrison entered the school building, claiming to be
carrying a bomb.
He was initially reported as a
bearded 35-year-old man with a camouflage backpack and dark hooded
sweatshirt. Morrison took six female students hostage and sexually
assaulted them, later releasing four.
When police entered the classroom,
Morrison opened fire before shooting hostage Emily Keyes in the head.
The other remaining hostage escaped unharmed, and paramedics confirmed
that Morrison had committed suicide.
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.
The incident brought to attention the
Columbine High School massacre of 1999, during which two teenage
students carried out a shooting rampage 38 miles away in Littleton,
Colorado, as well as the importance of school safety.
About 11:40 a.m.,
Duane R. Morrison (who had been arrested in 1973 for larceny and
possession of marijuana and on a separate occasion arrested for
obstructing police in Littleton, Colorado) entered the school carrying a
gun 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.
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
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.
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".
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. Sheriff Wegener
informed the media that all the girls were molested, though he did not
know "how much or to what degree".
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; 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".
Negotiations and evacuations
A "code white" alert was sounded over
the intercom and students were instructed to remain in their classrooms.
Negotiations with Morrison began with the goal of allowing the six
remaining hostages in the room to be released. 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. During this time Keyes managed to send her
family a brief text message stating, "I love u guys" 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.
A total of 800
students from both Platte Canyon High School and the nearby Fitzsimmons
Middle School were rapidly evacuated. 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. and by 3:00 p.m. all
had been taken to Deer Creek Elementary School. Parents were able to
gain little information from authorities, who remained silent regarding
the issue while the crisis continued.
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. Ambulances parked in the end zone of
the high school's football field. 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.
Park County sheriff Fred Wegener
(whose son was in the school building at the time of the incident) said
that police had chosen to storm the second-floor classroom after the man
ended negotiations, 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."
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,
and then at hostage 16-year-old junior Emily Keyes, who was trying to
run. Morrison committed suicide soon thereafter.
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. Investigators found no sign
of explosives in the man's backpack, but an assault rifle was found in a
clearing adjacent to a river about a mile north of the school.
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) 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
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. Superintendent Dr. James Walpole noted that of 460 high school
students, only 10 were absent.
The service for Emily Keyes was held
on September 30, the day that Governor Bill Owens later declared "Emily
Keyes Day". 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.
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 of
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".
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.
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.
Gunman, hostage die
Gunman kills girl, self as SWAT team storms
class after 4-hour standoff
By Carlos Illescas, Karen Rouse and Joey
Bunch - Denver Post Staff Writers
September 27, 2006
Bailey - A teenage girl was fatally shot
Wednesday afternoon just after authorities stormed a Platte Canyon High
School classroom to end a standoff with a gunman who had taken hostages.
The gunman fired at approaching SWAT officers and
then at the girl before shooting himself. Police did not identify the
man, who died at the scene.
The girl was flown to St. Anthony Central Hospital in
Denver, where she was pronounced dead at 4:32 p.m. Hospital spokeswoman
Bev Lilly said she believed the girl was shot in the head.
Authorities did not release the name of the victim,
but friends of the family said she was 16-year-old Emily Keyes. Lynn
Bigham, a friend of the victim's, described Emily as "sweet and
The gunman had taken a total of six female hostages,
and all but two had been released by the time Jefferson County SWAT
deputies charged into the room shortly before 4 p.m., about four hours
after the standoff began.
"We were afraid of the worst, and we had to do what
we had to do," Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said. "I don't know why
he wanted to do this."
The man, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and
carrying a backpack, entered the school at 11:40 a.m., apparently
looking for someone specific, according to witnesses, although police
would not confirm that.
He entered Sandra Smith's honors English class and
fired a shot in the air, then told all the students to stand facing the
chalkboard, said Tom Grigg, whose son, Cassidy, was in the classroom.
Then, the gunman approached each boy in the class and
told them to get out.
"A guy came up and pointed a gun at (Cassidy) and
told him to leave," Grigg said. "He said, 'No, I want to stay with the
girls,' and the guy put the gun in his face and said, 'You. Out of here."'
Police would not say whether the gunman sexually
assaulted any of the girls. But Grigg said his son told him, "There were
some really bad things that happened in that classroom." He did not
Once school officials realized the threat, they
issued a "code-white" alert over the intercom, meaning the school was in
Park County sheriff's deputies secured the building
and tried to negotiate with the gunman, who refused to speak directly to
them. The hostages were used to relay messages to authorities, Wegener
The man released four of the six girls, one at a
time, but kept two inside the room as negotiators intensified their
discussions with him, Wegener said.
At 3:30 p.m., the sheriff said, the gunman gave them
a 4 p.m. deadline when he would stop negotiations.
"It was then decided that a tactical solution needed
to be done in an effort to save the two hostages in the room," Wegener
With Park County officials securing the inner
perimeter of the school, the Jefferson County SWAT team entered the
classroom, Wegener said.
The gunman had shielded himself with one of the two
girls, the sheriff said. He declined to say whether deputies fired any
shots in the classroom.
At 3:40 p.m., a gurney was brought out of the school
with the girl. A second gurney that came out was empty.
Earlier in the day, as the standoff dragged on,
frantic parents searched for information about the status of their
Patti Browning's son was on a field trip to Denver
when he called her to let her know he was OK. "That was a relief," she
said, "but I'm still worried for all the others."
Dawn Mack, whose daughter attends Conifer High
School, was at Deer Creek Elementary School, where evacuated students
were taken, to check on her friends' children. She had heard all sorts
of rumors, including that some children were being molested by the
"You don't know what's going on," Mack said. "You
don't know what to believe. ... In that condition, your mind just goes
About 3 p.m., cheers erupted when buses turned toward
Deer Creek, where the evacuated students were taken. Parents waved
joyfully, many shouting, "I love you," when they spotted their children
through bus windows.
Sarah Mendoza was overcome with emotion when she
spotted her son, who attends Fitzsimmons Middle School, which is
adjacent to the high school.
"This is a parent's worst nightmare," she said. "I
can't tell you how happy I am."
The standoff was eerily similar to the Columbine High
School shooting seven years ago, as televised images showed students
lining up and boarding school buses.
At Deer Creek on Wednesday, Bill Twyford of Bailey
said he received a text message about 20 minutes before noon from his
15-year-old son, Billy. The message said, "Hey, there's a gun-hijacking
in our school right now. I'm fine. Bad situation, though."
As police negotiated with the gunman, deputies told
students to put their hands on their heads and go into the gymnasium.
"People were crying and people were going around
looking for their friends and trying to cheer themselves up," said
sophomore Randell Callahan. "All the teachers from the high school were
Park County Coroner Sharon Morris said the body of
the gunman was still in the second-floor classroom as of 6 p.m. Morris
said she knew the identity of the gunman but is still in the process of
notifying the family and could not release his name.
A 4-mile stretch of U.S. 285 that was closed during
the standoff is expected to remain closed until noon today.
Platte Canyon High School and Fitzsimmons Middle
School will be closed today, said Platte Canyon counselor Jim Orcutt.
District officials have set up a counseling center for students and
their families at Platte Canyon Community Church in Bailey. It will open
today at 7 a.m.
Gunman assaulted girls before killing
Standoff leaves 16-year-old dead
By Anslee Willet and Dennis Huspeni - The
A 53-year-old man sexually assaulted girls he
held hostage Wednesday at a Park County high school before
fatally shooting one and killing himself.
Duane Roger Morrison of Denver held six girls
captive at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey southwest of
Denver before letting four of them go, one by one.
“He did traumatize and assault our children,”
Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said this morning, describing
the assaults as “sexual in nature.” He didn’t say how many of
the girls were assaulted during the four-hour ordeal.
Morrison shot 16-year-old Emily Keyes as SWAT
team members stormed the English classroom where he was holed up
with two of the girls. Keyes, a junior, later died at a Denver
hospital. Autopsies are scheduled today on Morrison and Keyes.
Keyes grew up in Bailey and had a twin
brother, Casey, said Sabrina Blea, also 16. She described Emily
as friendly, bright, an athlete who played volleyball.
“She liked to talk a lot,” Blea said. “About
how people need to change and live life good. She’s so innocent.
I can’t believe it.”
Morrison, who had been living out of his car
but had a Denver address, had a semi-automatic pistol and a
Investigators haven’t found a link between
him and the school, and the motive “still remains a mystery,”
the sheriff said.
“This is something that has changed my school,
changed my community,” said Wegener, a 36-year resident of
Bailey. “My small county’s gone.”
Morrison began the takeover about 11:30 a.m.
Wednesday when he walked into a classroom, fired a shot at the
floor and ordered students to line up at the chalk board. He
then allowed some to leave, but kept six girls hostage.
Morrison initially talked with negotiators,
then did so by having his hostages yell replies down a hallway.
Before he broke off communication, Morrison said “something
would happen at 4 p.m.,” Wegener said.
SWAT team members witnessed Morrison
assaulting some of the girls, and relayed the information to the
sheriff. Wegener said his decision to move in on Morrison was
prompted by the vague deadline threat, Morrison cutting off
negotiations and the SWAT team’s observations of what Morrison
was doing to his hostages.
“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,” Wegener said. “We had to try
to save them.”
As SWAT members rushed the classroom,
Morrison fired at them, shot the girl, then shot himself,
Wegener said. SWAT members fired back.
Asked about his decision to send in the SWAT
team, 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.”
As the hostage situation began, the school
went into “Code White,” and teachers instantly reacted by
locking students in classrooms and keeping them away from doors
and windows. Eventually, SWAT team members led students out of
the building to safety.
Students were bused to a nearby elementary
school, where they were reunited with frantic parents who
scrambled to find their children.
“All we could do is pray,” said Mary Sasser,
who has a 15-year-old daughter at the school. She heard the
sirens as deputies rushed by and followed.
Court records show Morrison was arrested in
July in the west Denver suburb of Lakewood on a charge of
obstructing police in Littleton. He also was arrested in 1973
for larceny and marijuana possession.
Morrison’s stepmother said she and her
husband, Bob Morrison, “have no record of him being, having any
“We just know the way he was raised,” she
said, but declined to elaborate. She declined to give her first
She said she and her husband, who live in
Tulsa, Okla., had not heard from Duane Morrison recently.
She said Duane Morrison’s mother died 30 or
35 years ago.
“His father was in the services and he grew
up in different places,” she said.
It was unclear how the gunman entered the
school, but Katrina Keller, 16, may have been one of the first
to spot the intruder. She said she was walking by an empty
classroom about 11 a.m. when she spotted a man inside. He was
wearing a hooded jacket and looked angry, she said. But she
didn’t report him to the school office.
“I should’ve said something,” she said. “If
I’d said something, it might not have been this bad.”
Others just wondered why.
“It’s Bailey,” said 15-year-old Sophie Sasser,
her eyes red from crying. “Not a lot of things happen in Bailey.”
High school hostages were
Shooting victim identified as 16-year-old
By Rocky Mountain News Staff and
September 27, 2006
The teenage girl shot to death
during a hostage standoff at Platte Canyon High
School has been identified as Emily Keyes, a 16-year-old
junior, by friends and classmates.
She died about 4:30 p.m. after
undergoing emergency surgery at St. Anthony's
Central hospital, according to hospital spokeswoman
Keyes underwent emergency surgery
about 4 p.m. after being flown from the school.
The full horror of the days
events are still emerging. A knowledgeable law
enforcement source who spoke on the condition he not
be identified said that the gunman sexually
assaulted some of six female students who were held
hostage at the school.
The gunman has not been
identified. He carried a handgun into the school
about 11:30 a.m. and fired a shot into the ceiling
as he took over a second floor classroom.
Authorities negotiated the
release of four of the girls one by one over the
course of the afternoon. An unknown number were
sexually assaulted before they were released, the
One of the two hostages who were
not released, a 16-year-old junior, died after being
shot by the attacker when police burst into the room
about 3:45 p.m. to end the stalemate.
Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener
said he made the decision to send officers in to end
the stalemate about 3:30 p.m. because the gunman had
given a 4 p.m. deadline. In a Wednesday night press
conference he was asked if he was second-guessing
"Yes, I eventually have to go
face a family who’s daughter is dead," Wegener said.
"Yes. What would you do?"
The sheriff said his own son was
in the school building when gunman took over the
Wegener said the man shot at
officers who stormed into the classroom, then shot
the victim and then killed himself, as officers
The other remaining hostage was
pulled to safety by deputies.
The sheriff said investigators
have some leads on the identity of the gunman but
are not yet certain who he was. His body remains in
He said the gunman talked with
negotiators and released four of his six hostages
one by one until negotiations broke off around 3:30
The gunman ordered all of the
male students out of the classroom when he took over,
and made all of the girls stay, according to
accounts from students in the classroom next door.
Authorities found at least one
suspicious device that looked like a bomb and are
still checking the school.
The school sits in a narrow,
winding canyon carved by the South Platte River
about 35 miles southwest of Denver. and shares a
campus with Fitzsimmons Middle School. The two
schools have an enrollment of about 770 students,
with 460 in the high school.
Superintendent James Walpole said
there will be no school Thursday or Friday at the
schools because the campus is a crime scene.
Counselors will be made available to students and
staff, he said.
Communication among the law
enforcement agencies on the scene worked better than
they did at the Columbine shootings April 20, 1999,
when officers with various jurisdictions were unable
to talk to one another because of incompatible radio
The Metro Area Communication
vehicle was sent to the scene to help the multiple
agencies communicate. The technology in the truck
allows the different radio systems to be patched
together to create one large radio system.
"It was purchased for this very
reason, when you have a multi-agency incident," said
Sonny Jackson, spokesman for Denver Police
Department. "This is the first time it has been
called out of the Denver area."
The U.S. Department of Justice
purchased 25 of the trucks for cities across the
nation. One of the $500,000 vehicles was sent to
Denver about a year ago.
"It's a better means of
communicating," Jackson said.
Duane Roger Morrison
Emily Keyes, the victim