Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Terror in Hungerford

The Last Shot

The afternoon wore on into early evening as the team debated what they should do.  Ryan asked how he would be treated and how long he would go to prison.  He was assured that he would get fair treatment.  He then berated himself for not having the nerve to kill himself.  At no point did he express remorse over his victims or ask about anyone he knew from his neighborhood.  He seemed to care only about his own immediate situation.  He was asked repeatedly to give up his weapons, and just as often he insisted that he would not come out until someone gave him an answer about his mothers condition.  Brightwell said that he was trying to find out, but Ryan must have realized it was a stalling tactic.

At about 6:45, Ryan seemed to have made his final decision.   If only my car had started, he said, as if to indicate that had he been able to get away, none of those people would have died.  None, that is, except Susan Godfrey.  He expressed regret over his mother and then made the statement that would be echoed in newspapers and television reports around the world: I wish I had stayed in bed. 

More time passed as the tense officers waited.  At 6:52 (or 7:45), they heard a muffled shot, but they knew Ryan might have lied when he said he had only one shot left.  They could not enter the building under the assumption that he was dead or incapacitated.

Unsure about his position, the team sent a police dog into the building, which would give a signal if a living human was present.   From the roof, they used mirrors to locate Ryan.  Lane and Gregg say it took them another three hours to make their way into the building themselves, but other accounts indicate it was only half an hour.  Once they were sure that Ryan was in some way immobile, they signaled for an ambulance to move in and several officers entered to look for him. 

They found him huddled behind a file cabinet and some chairs inside a school room (or barricaded in an office), the place of his adolescent torture, apparently dead from a self-inflicted wound.  His gun lay between his knees.  They used a rope to pull at one of his legs to disturb the grenade in the event he had used it to booby-trap his body.  But there was no evidence of any such sinister plan.  Ryans body leaned over and it was clear that he was dead.  His Beretta was indeed tied to his wrist with a bootlace.  He had died from a single gunshot wound that had smashed through his brain.  His 15-minute rampage, spread over two miles and extended over the better part of the day, was finally over.

Including himself, seventeen people had died or been fatally wounded that day, and 14 had been seriously wounded (although these totals vary from one report to another).  The neighborhood residents helped to get the injured to hospitals and then stood around, shocked and upset, discussing with one another what the ordeal had been like and mourning those who were lost.  No one could understand why a young man would do such a thing, especially to his own mother and to neighbors who had been nothing but kind to him.

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