As printed in a local Portland Paper just days after the shooting where David Bengston was killed in 1985.
As Portland Junior High School reopened, students and teachers struggled to come to terms with the shootings Tuesday in which an eighth grader killed a custodian.
At the start of the day, the 380 students gathered in the auditorium to hear a state police spokesman summarize what had happened when the 13-year-old opened fire with a semiautomatic pistol, killing the custodian and injuring the principal and a secretary.
The principal, Donald Rixon, with scars on his face from being cut with flying glass when the youth fired at him through a door window, said the session was held ”so that everybody would have the same basis of information and so that we would not try to hide things from the youngsters.”
The students then went to their classrooms and discussions with their teachers, which Mr. Rixon described as:
”What’s on your mind? What do you want to say? Do you feel emotion? Do you feel like crying? It’s all right to cry, if that’s what you want to do. They talked about those kinds of things.”
Toured the Halls
About 20 community members well known to the students, such as clergymen and youth workers, also toured the halls in case individual students wanted to stop and talk.
There were 10 or 12 absentees -fewer than usual – at the two-story brick school on Main Street as this rural town of 8,400 tried to return to normal.
Mr. Rixon and the assistant principal, Fred Shiffer, met with reporters in an office over a nearby drugstore to offer, for the first time, their accounts.
They said the youth, who has been turned over to juvenile authorities to be tried as a delinquent, had been suspended twice this school year – for striking a student who had taunted him and two weeks ago for an accumulation of minor infractions of such rules as wearing a coat and hat in school.
The state police have not released the name of the student because of his age, but some officials, his classmates and residents have identified him as Floyd Warmsley, who lives with his father and a sister.
A ‘Heated’ Conversation
Last Friday, Mr. Rixon said, he had a ”heated” conversation with the student, again over wearing a coat. ”He seemed to have a very strong sense of fairness,” Mr. Rixon said. ”If he felt that he deserved the punishment, he had no difficulty accepting it. I remember one occasion he came up to me and said: ‘I did it. I was wrong.’ ”
In the Friday discussion, Mr. Rixon said, the student ”felt a certain unfairness” because ”I didn’t have every student in the school in that office at that time who was wearing a coat.” Mr. Rixon said that he did not suspend the student but that there was apparently ”some confusion” in the youth’s mind about his status.
At about 10:30 A.M. Tuesday, he said, the student came to his office, saying he did not feel well and demanding that his sister, a high school student, be called. The youth became ”somewhat upset” and left after having been advised to see the school nurse, Mr. Rixon said.
He said he tried to telephone the youth’s father but could not reach him. Shortly after 12:30, he added, the youth reappeared at his office with a gun on a sling under his overcoat and threatened to shoot him. The police said the gun belonged to the youth’s father, who has worked as a security guard.
After failing to persuade the youth to put down the gun, Mr. Rixon said, he and others ducked behind a door, and the youth fired through the window. The principal was cut in the face, and a secretary was wounded in the wrist.
The police said the youth went to the second floor, took a seventh grader hostage for a half-hour, shot and killed the custodian, David Bengston, 36, and surrendered after an aunt pleaded with him over the intercom to throw his weapon out the window.