Hastings teacher called a hero for confronting armed student

4:12 PM, Apr 6, 2010   |    comments
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  • Mike Rapatz

HASTINGS, Minn. -- If ever Hastings Middle School needed a hero, it was Monday morning.

As eighth grade students studied in a science classroom, police say a 14-year-old classmate carried in a loaded .22 caliber revolver and ordered everyone to the floor.

Student Bill Norris wasn't sure what to make of the order. "When he said get down, I said, 'no you get down,' because I thought he was just joking around. All of a sudden he pulled out the gun."

A frightened Norris froze in place along with his classmates as the student waved the handgun in their direction. That's when students say their science teacher Mike Rapatz calmly took control.

"He told him 'let's take this to a different place, let's talk. Let's talk about this. Don't do this,'" said Mitchel Donahoe, who was also in the room. Donahoe said the armed boy then turned and left the classroom, "crying while he was doing it."

As the school went into lockdown mode, police said the boy pounded on several other locked classroom doors. He broke the glass on one door and went inside the occupied classroom. According to Hastings Police Chief Mike McMenomy, the boy smashed computers and at one point encountered a school staff member in the hall, "pointed a gun at her and said 'bang, bang.'"

McMenomy says the student then returned to Rapatz's science classroom, smashed the window and reached through the broken glass to unlock the door. As the armed student came inside, his terrified classmates huddled behind lab tables.

Donahoe says Rapatz again stepped in front of the student, telling him, "'Hey calm down, calm down. Let's not do this.'"

McMenomy said the student then left the classroom and ran out of the school where he was tackled by officers and disarmed.

"I think it was probably as close to a school shooting without actual shots being fired as you can imagine," said the police chief.

Parents and students praised Rapatz, a veteran Hastings teacher, for his calm under pressure. "He kept putting his life between the kids and the kid that had the gun," said Debbie Donahoe, Mitchel's mom. "He's actually the hero."

McMenomy said the student was treated for cuts on his hand suffered when he broke the windows. He was then taken to the Dakota County juvenile detention center where he remains in custody awaiting charges.

The police chief said the boy is a foster child who moved in with a Hastings family and started classes last fall. McMenomy says the family owned a .22 caliber revolver which may be the same gun the boy brought loaded to school.

McMenomy said it's possible the boy tried to fire the gun. "Whether it malfunctioned or he tried and it wasn't working, we're not sure. We're going to do some checks of the gun to see if it was workable."

Tim Collins, Hastings superintendent of schools, would not discuss the boy's previous disciplinary record because of privacy laws, but said the district "had no information that would lead us to believe he was an immediate threat to our staff and to our students."

(Copyright 2010 by KARE 11. All Rights Reserved.)

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