The principal of an elementary school where 11 people were shot by a teenage gunman apparently obsessed with mass murder credited "62 heroes" who work at the school for rushing to aid the terrified children.
James William Wilson, 19, faces a string of charges in the shooting Monday at Oakland Elementary School that killed 8-year-old Shequila Bradley and wounded two teachers and eight other children. One of the wounded children, 8-year-old Tequila Thomas, was hospitalized in extremely critical condition.A circuit judge Tuesday ordered Wilson committed to the State Hospital in Columbia for a psychiatric evaluation.
Eleanor Rice, principal of the school for three years, praised the teachers and staff on Tuesday, some of whom risked their lives to protect the children from the rampage.
"Today our teachers and staff members are still in a state of shock," Rice said. "We have 62 heroes, our staff members, who acted and did not react to the situation. The children were our No. 1 priority. Not one staff member didn't put children first. Teachers cared for those injured before they saw to their own wounds."
Physical education teacher Kat Finkbeiner was one of the heroes. After Wilson allegedy shot a teacher and three students in the school cafeteria, Finkbeiner followed him to the girls' restroom where he was reloading his revolver. She wrestled with him for the gun and was shot twice.
Wilson left the wounded woman in the restroom and went to a third-grade classroom where police said he opened fire, shooting six more children before running out of ammunition.
But Finkbeiner, leaving a trail of blood in the hallway from gunshot wounds to her mouth and hand, followed Wilson, and when she saw him throw down his gun, ordered him to put his hands up and wait for police. He obeyed the order initially, but then turned and fled through an open window.
Once outside the school, he approached the principal and told her, "They're after me, they are going to get me."
"I didn't know if he were involved (in the shootings) or they (gunmen) were after him, then in the conversation I realized he was the man doing the shooting," Rice said. "He reached in his pocket and gave me identification - his Social Security, license and library card."
Wilson, who faced two assault charges with other charges pending from Monday's attack, has a history of psychiatric care and in recent weeks apparently had become obsessed with books about mass murders.
The suspect's paternal grandmother, Gladys Wilson, told the Greenville News that her grandson was a "loner" who liked to read all night and didn't like anyone to come in their house, which has "No Trespassing" signs posted outside.
She said he lately had been preoccupied with books about multiple killings and spent the night before the attack reading about a mass murderer who buried nearly 30 bodies under his house - apparently John Wayne Gacy - and talked about the book Monday over breakfast.
"Jamie asked, `Do you think you would live in a house with 30 bodies buried under it?' " his grandmother said.
Gacy, 46, is on death row at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Ill., for the sex and torture slayings of 33 young men and boys. Investigators found the remains of 29 of his victims buried beneath his home in suburban Chicago.
Wilson had undergone psychiatric treatment since he was 15 years old and spent 15 days as a mental patient at Self Memorial Hospital about six months ago, said Dr. Willie Moseley, a psychiatrist who treated him. He was referred to a mental health center for follow-up care but never showed up, Moseley said.
The school remained closed Wednesday while teachers and mental health experts go to students' homes to counsel them and their parents. The school, which has 600 students in kindergarten through fourth grade, is to reopen Thursday.