Man who took hostages called troubled

Thursday, September 18, 2003
Kilpatrick 1999 High School photo

A hostage standoff ended tragically Wednesday night at Dyersburg State Community College that left the perpetrator dead and at least two of the hostages wounded.

After entering classroom 236 B on the upper level of the Eller Hall Administration building at about 12:40 p.m., the gunman, 26-year-old Harold Kilpatrick, Jr. of Dyersburg, spent the following nine hours holding students and the instructor of the math class hostage with a 9-mm pistol and what police described as a "large butcher knife" before he fired the pistol and was shot dead by police at about 9:40 p.m.

"Two shots were heard from the classroom and the Dyersburg SRT team immediately went in," said Dyersburg Police Chief Bobby Williamson. "Two hostages and the gunman were shot--he (Kilpatrick) is dead."

Kilpatrick Shelby County Sheriff's Dept.

John Johnson, 28 of Dyersburg, and an unknown female student, were shot in the time of the confrontation between Kilpatrick and the SRT unit. Both were rushed from the school to the Dyersburg Regional Medical Center by ambulance.

Johnson was shot in the abdomen and leg and remains in critical yet stable condition after being airlifted to the Jackson Madison County Hospital. While the unidentified female, who was afflicted with a wound to the chest, was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis.

In addition, a female hostage with heart complications was also transported to the hospital by ambulance immediately following the shootout.

Members of the Dyersburg Police Department's Special Response Team

Authorities remain unsure whether the gun wounds sustained by the hostages were from Kilpatrick or police gunfire.

Lisa McDowell, DPD public information officer, said one student who was held hostage fled from the administration building immediately before shots from the assailant were heard. Those actions, according to authorities, may have prompted Kilpatrick to begin the subsequent shoot-off.

"I grabbed her and put in her in the car," said McDowell. "Then I heard the shots fired."

Three female students escaped from the classroom shortly after the situation began. At about 1:55 p.m. the visibly shaken women, one of whom was pregnant, were quickly rushed by Dyersburg authorities for de-briefing from the north side of the building.

The other 11 students and the professor remained in the classroom for the duration of the hostage situation.

Throughout the daylong crisis, authorities remained optimistic of resolving the situation peacefully.

"Negotiations are going real well," said Williamson at a late afternoon press briefing.

However, the State Gazette has learned authorities only talked directly to Kilpatrick for about five minutes throughout the duration of the hostage situation.

The rest of the time, authorities used other ways of communicating with the assailant -- indirectly, through hostages' cellular phones and cellular text messaging.

Fourteen students and the adjunct professor, Dana Incrocci, were in the middle of their class session, which began at 12:20 p.m. at the time when Kilpatrick entered the room, said Williamson.

Soon after, rumors of the incident began to inundate Dyersburg and the region, causing worried parents and friends to surface on the school campus, frantically searching for answers.

"I have no idea what is going on," screamed Libby Ward, parent of hostage Sarah Smith. "It has been two hours and they haven't told me anything."

Eventually, a camp for the hostage's family was set up at Student Center building, where counselors were on hand to deal with the devastating news. Later in the night, at around 7 p.m. police received was deemed as optimistic news after Kirpatrick demanded food for him and the hostages.

"He asked for 6 pepperoni pizzas and two 12-packs of soda," said Charles Maxey, general manager of WASL 100.1 FM, who acted as a spokesperson for police for part of the event.

Questions remain as to why Kilpatrick chose the DSCC classroom; however, the assailant's uncle, Milton Burns II, told the State Gazette he had applied and was ultimately rejected for financial aid at the institution shortly before he took the classroom hostage.

Relatives also believe a history of mental illness, along with a lack of medication for the ailment, may explain the man's actions.

"He is a manic depressive," said Carolyn Reed, Kilpatrick's cousin. "He has not been able to take his medication for nearly two years." A suicide note was discovered by the assailant's sister at her Dyersburg residence shortly after he had taken the classroom captive. The note proved to give authorities valuable information about the inexplicable situation.

The note said Kilpatrick, "wanted to kill some people and die today." In addition, the letter claimed that he was a member of Al-Quada and had directly talked to Osama Bin Laden--a claim authorities later dismissed.

Kilpatrick was to appear in Federal Court on Wednesday for the 2002 alleged kidnapping and assault charges from a previous girlfriend who lives in Memphis.

In addition to those charges, Dyersburg Police records reveal a report was filed on Dec. 7, 2002 accusing Kilpatrick of stalking a Dyersburg woman, Tangela Barby. But according to police, those charges were dropped four days later.

Screams of injustice by relatives and friends of the gunman were heard across the campus shortly after news had spread that the assailant had been fatally shot. "They killed a mental patient," Reed screamed. "They went in there and shot a mental patient."

However, authorities are confident that proper measures were taken to resolve the situation.

"It's always a tragedy when a life is taken, but I feel that my men followed protocol and diffused the situation in the only manner possible," said Williamson. "We may be a small town, but we are prepared for situations like this."

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