It was a typical Fall day in October, 2006, the quiet and peaceful rolling hills of the Amish community would be tomorrow’s headlines and shock the nation. Little did anyone know this quiet Amish community in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County would become the national focus of attention on the brutal murder of five young Amish school girls in a quaint one room West Nickel Mines Amish schoolhouse (one of which housed only 26 students). The assailant, Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old local milk truck driver and a father himself of two young school children, would at 8:45 a.m. walk his children to the school bus stop, kiss his children goodbye, then go about his daily business as usual. Although, this day it was not delivering milk and dairy products to the local farms and Amish community, instead he would go on a killing spree of Amish school girls ranging from ages six to thirteen. The details behind this event is most like any hostage-taking event. The details leading to and during the incident are confusing and may never be fully uncovered as in the end the hostage-taker eventually takes his own life. According, Charles Roberts was a troubled individual non-descript, he carefully planned this day, and even left several suicide notes to his children and his wife. The notes detailed how pained and grief-stricken he was at the birth and immediate death (20 minutes after her live birth) of his newborn baby girl nine years ago. He felt deep in his heart that that death had to be revenged. The notes also alluded to his molestation of two family members in years past, as well as his nightmares that he would perhaps molest again. Those molestations were never substantiated by the supposed victims as his background and his reasons for the killings became a puzzle to the mass media and general public. Why his revenge on these young, innocent school girls? Perhaps it was his mental anguish that drove him to this atrocity? Questions still unanswered.
In retrospect, perhaps mental health professionals could have played a part in this event. Apparently, Charles Carl Roberts IV never sought professional mental health, therefore no background on his mental facilities can really be measured. By him carrying around his molestation guilt for 20 years, and not speaking to anyone about it, may have driven him to his rage. His guilt of his previous alleged molestation events becoming revealed or maybe him reverting back to molestation, may have heightened his fears, no one really knows for sure. As to the mystery why he chose the Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County community’s West Nickel Mines Amish schoolhouse still remains undetermined. He appeared to have no gripes with the Amish community. In fact, many of his milk deliveries to farms included the Amish (sadly, some actually of the families of the murdered children).
As for mental health professional attempting to participate in hostage-taking negotiations, trying to chide Charles Roberts to reconsider his situation? Unfortunately, the events happened so quickly that just couldn’t be a viable option at the time. Even if mental health experts arrived on the scene in a timely manner, the deaths of five children still may not have been averted. According to event accounts, Charles Roberts was adamant in not wishing police or any figure of authority to come near or enter the building. So even if a hostage negotiator with a mental health background was able to enter the picture, more than likely he/she would just have been another victim and senseless death. It appeared that Charles Carl Roberts IV had a death wish and no one, even a mental health professional was going to change his mind to end his own life, which he eventually did by putting a pistol to his head and pulling the trigger. Another hostage event ending with hostages perishing and in the end the hostage-taker ending his own life.
As for the appropriate police response to the situation, after the event, questions were raised by the general public. Did the police respond to the hostage-taking situation properly? In response, Utah State troopers were quoted as having 100 percent certainty that they responded to the incident in the correct way. Some sources had questioned how the situation was handled whereas a police shot was never fired, when gun shots were heard from inside the schoolhouse. There was concerns raised regarding radio incident command communications gave a “permission denied” instruction when first responders wished to enter the building as the first shots were fired. Perhaps their immediately entering the would have saved lives, no one knows for sure. The conjecture continues. Police experts content that utilizing “Immediate Action Rapid Deployment (IARD) tactics should have been deployed, thus disarming Charles Roberts. According to Jeffrey Reed of the California Sheriff’s Department, in certain counties, early aggressive tactics are necessary to disarm individuals. He further states that deputies are taught to be aggressive hunters and potential killers their waiting prey.
In conclusion, trying to answer the whys and wherefores, is a difficult task at best. Charles Carl Roberts IV, the 32-year-old local milk truck driver, with a troubled past lingering within him has a plan. He went through with his plan, no matter how horrific, and unfortunately he succeeded. The plan ending with five children’s deaths and the eventual taking of his own life.
- Kelly, Janet (September 28, 2007) Troopers talk about horror of Amish school tragedy. Retrieved from: http://lancasteronline.com/news/troopers-talk-about-horror-of-amish-school-tragedy/article_63c8a42f-7110-5e3e-b14f-d36860abf17a.html
- Armellino, Rick (Aug 22, 2007). Revisiting the Amish schoolhouse massacre. Retrieved from: https://www.policeone.com/police-products/tactical/ballistic-shields/articles/1290372-Revisiting-the-Amish-schoolhouse-massacre/
- Stauffer, Cindy (Oct 4, 2006) Inside the mind of a killer. Retrieved from: http://lancasteronline.com/news/inside-the-mind-of-a-killer/article_50427828-3a22-5539-9680-07272e37ce3f.html