Students said they were frozen in fear after an armed man stormed a local school and held a principal hostage. The school scare prompted officers to swarm the campus, armed to the teeth. One student jumped from a window to safety. The suspect, who went to the school himself decades ago, was captured and was in jail last night.
The day’s most enduring image was a student jumping out a window, fleeing a gunman inside his school.
“I was sitting in my chair scared stiff and ran under a desk. I was like, ‘Oh my God is he gonna find me? what should I do?'” Zachary Pruner said.
The 12-year-old was in the Stissing Mountain School guidance office when 42-year-old Christopher Craft allegedly burst into the main office next door.
“The guy sounded pretty angry, a little confused and frustrated. And Mr. Mann was just trying to calm him down,” Pruner said.
Dutchess County investigators said Craft snuck a disassembled shotgun into the school, reassembling it once inside.
He stormed into the office, taking middle school principal Bob Hess hostage.
Hess, a former school psychologist, has reportedly known the suspect for years.
Responding to 911 calls, members of a SWAT team entered the school and began negotiating with Craft.
Meanwhile, Pruner got the attention of those outside the building.
“I put up a sign saying one guy one guy with a gun and four people inside, including me. The SWAT guys held up a sign that said jump out the window,” Pruner said.
“I was nervous but not all that scared, kind of calm.”
The suspect eventually said he was ready to surrender and was taken into custody.
In court Tuesday night Craft requested psychiatric attention. A senior assistant from the district attorney’s office said he’ll be fully evaluated before his next court date.
“It’s not uncommon for individuals who go into the jail to go either to the medical unit or if it’s something immediate to be taken out to some other hospital or facility outside, so he’ll be evaluated I’m sure,” Assistant DA Ed White said.
Principal Hess was home with family and friends Tuesday night unwilling to speak to the media. But the town supervisor, Gregg Pulver, had this to say about the day’s events:
“We will always remember this day knowing that the school and town communities worked in unison and the outcome could not have been better. I have never been more proud of pine plains than on this day,” Pulver said.
Who Is Christopher David Craft?
The suspect is of Red Hook, in upstate New York. Police say he is a former student of Stissing Mountain and was known to police prior to this incident due to other incidents, although there’s nothing to believe any of those events were of this serious a nature.
Witnesses say Craft, who reportedly has a son in the military, entered the school with either a shotgun or rifle, allegedly yelling about the war. A former Dutchess County investigator told CBS 2 police on the scene told him Craft was upset about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are reports Craft has children currently attending the middle school.
Craft attended Stissing Mountain School in the 1980’s.
Resident Charlie Bombard said Craft was “always in trouble,” and someone who was seemingly “unstable.”