Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Terror in Hungerford


He rounded a curve in Priory Road and headed toward a place he knew welland hated.  He was returning to the school where he had endured so much bullying.  It may well have been the place where his anger and hatred had coagulated over the years into the kind of energy needed for that days run amok.  On the way, he shot and wounded George (or William) Noon, 67, outside in his garden.  The man was hit in the shoulder and the eye.  (His son, Tim, was mistakenly arrested as the shooter, even as he tried to tell the police that his father had been shot.)  Then Ryan pointed at Noons neighbor and said, Bang, before moving on.  He fired at another house but hit no one.

Reports of sightings of the gunman flooded the police department, making it difficult for them to pinpoint just where he was.  A great deal of manpower was expended in tracking down false reports, and many who had tried calling in with actual tips were thwarted by overburdened phone lines.  Some people claimed that Ryan was still on South View Road, confused by the fact that ammunition left behind was exploding in the fire.  Officers had to check out these reports.

Yet some teams had followed Ryans trail of death, coming across victims, and had rightly guessed that he was at the red brick school.  This place offered a good view of the town from its third story, one that a sharpshooter might appreciate if he wanted to continue to pick off targets.  By 2:30 P.M., thanks to children on bicycles who had spotted the gunman on Priory Road, the specially trained forces located him.Carefully, they surrounded the building to wait for him to make his presence known.  Several hours passed with no sighting of him, and no word.  Yet there were no more reports of him at others places, either.  Obeying orders to keep him contained if he were in the building, they waited.

School in which Ryan hid
School in which Ryan hid

Then someone saw a man framed in a window on the third floor.  He looked out and then drew away.  A caretaker confirmed that a man with a gun had passed that way and that the school was otherwise empty.  They figured Ryan probably had realized he was surrounded.  It was over for him. (One account says that he shot at the helicopters overhead, but others remain silent on this part of the incident.)  One officer called out to let Ryan know that he was surrounded and should give himself up, promising that if he came out unarmed, no harm would come to him.  He ignored the order.

Since it was clear that Ryan was away from South View, ambulances and fire trucks were finally sent into the stricken areas, albeit too late for some of the victims and for the homes set ablaze.   Some of the wounded were transported to hospitals and the dead were covered or taken to the morgue.  The Ryan home was decimated.

Back at the school, Sergeant Paul Brightwell of the TFU attempted to make contact with Ryan.   He noted that the shooter had thrown a white surrender flag tied to his AK-47 out the window, which left him with only his Beretta pistol.  That was a good sign, but the man was still considered dangerous.  As Brightwell shouted at him to be heard over the helicopters, he learned that Ryan also had an Israeli fragmentation hand grenade on his person and had tied his Beretta to his wrist.  

At first he was belligerent, refusing even to give his name, but eventually he seemed willing to talk.  They kept up an exchange for over an hour.  Helpfully, Ryan let them know where he had dropped his rifle, with a magazine, and then lamented his mothers death, as well as his shooting of the dogs.  He asked that they give his dog a proper burial.  Yet even as he realized what he had done, he kept asking if his mother had died, but Brightwell would not confirm this.  That made Ryan angry.  I wont come out until I know, he insisted.  I did not mean to kill her.  It was a mistake.

As Brightman held out, marksmen sighted Ryan in their scopes but hesitated to shoot.   Brightman warned Ryan not to come to the window holding a gun.    Had he shown himself clearly armed or had he emerged back onto the street with the intent to kill, that would have been grounds to shoot, but no one was willing to shoot him down in his current vulnerable position.  Brightman hoped to take him alive.

Ryan asked how many people he had killed and wounded, referring to them in war terms as casualties.  Brightman let him know that he had done a lot of killing.  Ryan then admitted that it was all like a bad dream.  He tossed another item out the window, which turned out to be the pistols magazine.  But he shouted that he had one more round, responding when queried that its purpose was obvious.  They realized that he intended to end his own life.  This standoff was not about to end yet.

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'