11 March 2006

Teen hostages released: "Sympatique" gunman allowed students to send text messages to parents

I am convinced that the teacher who took 21 students hostage at a high school where he used to work is not a violent criminal. To the benefit of all, his motives had more to do with being unemployed, despondent and allegedly drunk. He used rubber bullets, vowed not to hurt anybody and allowed students to "text" their parents on cell phones. If he were any more harmless, he might have packed a picnic basket. But, one never knows what goes on in the minds of the mentally ill. It's good news that a bad situation was promptly resolved. Some students returned to school the next day.

I don't mean to negate the severity of this event. As a professional cynic and detached observer of world events I would say this crime was brief and ended well, even for the suspect. Perhaps Monsieur Vilpail will get the help that he needs. In the United States, I fear he would have been obliterated before being given that oppportunity. Situations like this often end violently. Vilpail's consideration for the students and two teachers suggests that his mental state was a major component of his actions.

The AFP had this to say...
"A former teacher who took 23 people hostage in a western French school before surrendering was put in a psychiatric hospital Friday suffering apparent paranoia, a state prosecutor said. Nicolas Vilpail, 33, sparked a five-hour police standoff at the school in Sable-sur-Sarthe on Thursday when he locked himself in a classroom where he taught two years ago with 21 teenaged students and two class supervisors.

He eventually released the hostages unharmed and surrendered without violence after prolonged negotiations. Officials said he had used a pistol that fired rubber bullets to sequester the 23. In custody, Vilpail gave an 'incoherent' explanation for his actions." (source: AFP, photo: AFP)
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