Two die and three injured in latest gun rampage


Two people died and three were wounded in a shooting spree by a gunman in a Pittsburgh suburb. He later surrendered after holding hostages.

The man, named as Ronald Taylor, first shot a maintenance worker and set fire to his apartment. He then walked to nearby Burger King and McDonald's fast food restaurants where he shot four more people.

The gunman then took refuge in an office building which also houses day centres for children and pensioners. Police and SWAT teams surrounded the building. Several hours later, the gunman surrendered and the hostages were released.

Meanwhile, the six-year-old boy who shot and killed a girl in his school in Michigan on Tuesday lived in a "flophouse" and used a stolen gun. However, he will not be charged with any offence, a prosecutor said yesterday. The boy is staying with a relative but police said he would be put in state custody.

The Buell Elementary School where the shooting took place was closed yesterday as parents of pupils and the inhabitants of the suburban Mount Morris township outside Flint, Michigan, were still in shock at the fatal shooting.

Kayla Rolland, also six, died soon after she was shot by the boy in the neck in a classroom. The Genesee County prosecutor, Mr Arthur Busch, said there may have been "some sort of scuffle or quarrel in the playground" between the two a day earlier. One child may have slapped the other.

Mr Busch ruled out charging the boy. "This boy comes from a very troubled home. He is really a victim of a drug culture and a house that's really in chaos," the prosecutor said yesterday.

Two men who lived in the house have been arrested in connection with the gun.

The boy's father, who is serving a prison term, told the local sheriff that he feared his son was involved when he heard about the shooting "because he knew his son and knew the type of problems he'd been having". Police chief Eric King said that after being interviewed the boy "sat there drawing pictures".

Investigators who searched the home where the boy lived with his mother and his uncle found drugs and a 12-gauge shotgun. "There were people coming and going from this house," Mr Busch said. When the police went to the house "there were several people just hanging out. I call it a flophouse."

The Michigan state laws allow for children of any age to be charged as an adult for serious crimes such as manslaughter and murder. However, Mr Busch said "you have to be old enough to form criminal intent to commit the crime of murder" and "a child under the age of seven is not criminally responsible - cannot be convicted of a felony".

Mr Busch said the boy "is a victim in many ways. It is very sad. We need to put our arms around him and love him."

The shooting led to renewed calls for stricter gun control laws. President Clinton expressed shock that a six-year-old could even carry a gun to school and urged laws to make guns safer, such as a compulsory trigger lock.

Following the massacre at Columbine High School outside Denver where 14 students and a teacher died less than a year ago, the US Congress began debating stricter gun control laws which were opposed by the powerful gun lobby. The draft law which is still stalled in Congress is a watered-down version of President Clinton's proposal for mandatory child safety locks.

The New York Times in an editorial yesterday said that the responsibility for the death of Kayla Rolland "has to lie with adults who allowed a first grader get access to a gun. It also lies with lawmakers in Washington who have blocked efforts to protect children from this kind of senseless death."