BAILEY, Colo. — The gunman who took six girls hostage in a high school standoff that ended in his suicide had sent his brother a long, rambling letter warning of his impending death, investigators said Friday.
The 14-page letter from Duane Morrison was postmarked Wednesday in nearby Shawnee — the same day of the attack.
Morrison claimed in the letter that it was not a suicide note, Sheriff Fred Wegener said.
“However, many times, the letter references suicide,” Wegener said. “This letter clearly acknowledges his pending death. It also apologizes to his family for his actions that will occur.”
The letter contains no reference to Platte Canyon High or any other school, nor does it refer to a specific time or plans to harm anyone else, authorities said, leaving investigators with no known connection between the gunman and this mountain town of about 3,500 people 35 miles from Denver.
Morrison, 53, sexually molested all six girls before SWAT teams stormed the classroom, the sheriff said. During a gun battle with police, Morrison shot 16-year-old Emily Keyes to death and then killed himself.
The letter “doesn’t tell me a lot of why,” the sheriff said, but it does suggest “he probably intended to kill both the young ladies and then kill himself, or have us shoot him.”
Tales of abuse
Investigators identified Morrison as a petty criminal who had a Denver address but apparently had been living in a motel and possibly in his battered Jeep. They also traced the handgun used in the shooting to one of Morrison’s brothers, who turned over the still-sealed letter on Thursday.
One of the hostages, Lynna Long, told the Rocky Mountain News that she was groped above the waist but believes Emily “got it worse.” Lynna said that she was afraid to look, “but you could hear Emily saying, ‘No. Please don’t.”’
The newspaper said Lynna and her mother had agreed to allow Lynna to be identified by name.
Lynna said all the girls had been told to stand facing a wall, and she could not see what Morrison was doing, but she knew the other girls were being molested because “you could hear the rustling of clothes and elastic being snapped and zippers being opened and closed.”
Video: Suicide note Authorities say they knew of no connection between Morrison and the hostages he held for four hours after bursting into a college prep English class.
The sheriff said Morrison had approached a male high school student on the day of the attack and “asked about the identity of a list of female students.” Wegener said he was not sure if it was a written list or names rattled off by Morrison.
It was not disclosed whether the list included the girl who was killed.
Caught on surveillance tape
The gunman also spent time at a riverside clearing a mile north of the school. Wegener said an assault rifle found in the secluded spot apparently belonged to him.
“He’d obviously been in the area staking it out,” said Randy Marsh, a hardware store employee who remembers seeing Morrison’s Jeep as long as six weeks ago. “He didn’t draw attention to himself.”
Video from cameras outside the school showed Morrison sitting in his Jeep in the parking lot for about 20 minutes and then mingling with students as classes changed, nearly 35 minutes before the siege began, KCNC-TV in Denver reported.
Lance Clem, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said investigators were reviewing the surveillance tapes and 911 calls.
Authorities released a recording of a 2004 call Morrison made to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership in the Denver area after he received a holiday catalog in the mail. His call led to a harassment charge.
“Hey, Duane Morrison here,” the tape begins. “I just wonder if you (slur) are responsible for sending this to me. I’d sure like to get this stopped. I guess my last threat down there didn’t carry very far.”
Later, he says: “What do you think it will take to get this stopped? Uh, maybe a visit with an assault rifle? ... I’d sure hate for it to come to that.”
Neighbors describe lewd conduct
Jesse Williams, 38, who worked as a maintenance supervisor at the Denver apartment complex where Morrison used to live, recalled female residents complaining about lewd or suggestive comments from Morrison.
“He was always talking about girls,” Williams said. “If there was a girl who was younger out at the pool, he was outside. I mean, every time.
“Guys will be guys, but when you’re 50-some years old and you’re out there looking at 16-year-olds at the pool in their bikinis, I thought that was a little strange,” Williams said. “I said ’Are you always out here when there are girls at the pool?’ and he just smiled.”
Last year, someone broke into Morrison’s apartment and stole more than a dozen handguns and rifles, according to a police report. Williams said he recalled seeing at least 20 guns during a visit to the apartment.
“We had a conversation about the right to bear arms. He really liked his guns,” Williams said. “I thought it was a little odd that a guy would have so many guns.”
Classes were canceled for the rest of the week as the community tried to come to grips with the bloodshed, which evoked memories of the 1999 shooting rampage that left 15 dead at Columbine High School, less than an hour’s drive away.
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