Friends of a 14-year-old Syracuse Junior High School boy who held his classmates hostage at gun point Wednesday say he bragged that morning about a "big party" planned for eighth-grade students during the lunch hour and encouraged them not to miss it.
"He said that by the time lunch was over, everyone would know who he was," said Ashley Jones, 14, who ate lunch with the boy Wednesday.The so-called party began at 12:15 p.m. when Jordan Parry, who had been pacing up and down an aisle between lunchroom tables clutching his left front pants pocket, climbed onto the cafeteria stage and fired two shots from a .22 caliber handgun into the ceiling.
Parry then waved the gun around the room, screaming at fellow students and teachers to get away from the door, said Syracuse Police Chief Brian Wallace.
"At first everybody was laughing 'cause they thought the gun was fake," said Spencer Johnston, 13, who was at a table just 20 feet from the stage. "Then we realized it wasn't."
Some 150 students were in the room when Parry started firing, Wallace said. Most of them ran for the nearest door, but about 20 students were left in the room when the boy ordered the cafeteria doors shut.
Over the next 20 minutes the teen let small groups of students leave, first girls and then boys until only two - John Gill and Brent Newby - were left in the room.
Parry held his gun to the head of one boy and used him as a human shield after Newby, the student body president who is also Parry's cousin, told Parry to calm down or the police might shoot him.
Throughout the standoff, Parry paced back and forth on the stage, holding the gun to his own head and saying he wanted to leave the area because he was having problems with his parents, Wallace said.
He demanded a van with a full tank of gas and a cellular phone in order to make his getaway, Wallace said. He planned to take the two hostages with him.
Syracuse police and deputies from the Davis County Sheriff's Office finally subdued Parry after detonating a grenade called a "flash-bomb." The explosion distracted Parry enough that officers were able to grab him. Parry's gun went off during the struggle, but no one was hurt, Wallace said.
"I think he was more suicidal than homicidal," said Wallace, who was the only Syracuse officer on duty when the call for help came in from the school. "But we were very lucky that no one got hurt."
Parry has been booked into the Davis County Juvenile Detention Center for investigation of kidnapping and aggravated assault, Wallace said.
School administrators evacuated the school during the standoff, blaring the code word "seagull" over the intercom system to alert teachers to clear the building, students said. Some students were taken across the street to a nearby elementary school, while others stood outside along the school's rear perimeter fence by the athletic fields until they were allowed to return to their classrooms.
Counselors from the Davis County District Crisis Team were called to the school immediately and returned there Wednesday to help students deal with the trauma, Superintendent Darrell K. White said.
A school secretary, who asked not to be identified, said the mood at the junior high Wednesday morning was "subdued."
Gill, who went back to school Wednesday and said he didn't really know his captor, reported Parry had told him earlier in the week that "something was going to happen."
"I had never talked to him before, except for maybe `hi.' In class on Tuesday, he told me that something big was going to happen tomorrow. He started telling everybody that," said one hostage.
Gill said that during the standoff Wednesday, Parry said he chose Gill and Newby as hostages because they presented the biggest threat to him because they were bigger than other students.
"Every time I moved, he pointed the gun at me," Gill said."He kept us as hostages because he said he was scared we'd try to hurt him," he said.
That's when Parry decided it was time to leave and ordered Gill and Newby to walk in front of him at gunpoint.
Parry planted the barrel of the .22-caliber pistol to the head of one of the hostages. The trio headed for a police car that the assailant planned to use as a getaway car. An officer threw the grenade at Parry, who turned his gun away from the hostages and toward the police.
When the grenade exploded, the two hostages ran.
Gill was pretty shaken up over the ordeal, his father said.
"He wasn't crying when I first got there, but when I reached for him, he started crying," the father said.
The father said school officials weren't honest when they told him what had happened. In fact, "they flat-out lied," he said.
The principal told him that a crazy adult had sneaked into the school and taken the kids hostage.
"I guess they didn't want me to go after the kid. The thought has crossed my mind. I can't think of any other reason I was told that."