The Amish schoolhouse gunman threatened to kill his hostages “in two seconds” if authorities did not leave the property, according to a 911 transcript released Tuesday.
“Don’t try to talk me out of it, get them all off the property now,” Charles Carl Roberts IV told a Lancaster County dispatcher in a call that came in at 10:55 a.m. Oct 2.
The dispatcher then asked Roberts to stay on the phone so he could be transferred to state police. Roberts replied: “No, you tell them and that’s it. Right now or they’re dead in two seconds.”
The 911 dispatcher sought to transfer the call and told Roberts, “Hang on a minute,” Roberts replied again: “Two seconds, that’s it.” The line then went dead.
Roberts, a 32-year-old milk truck driver and father of three, stormed the West Nickel Mines Amish School on Oct. 2 armed with a shotgun, a handgun and a stun gun. He ended up killing five girls and wounding five others.
Teacher Emma Mae Zook, 20, and her mother, who was visiting the schoolhouse, darted out of the building when they saw one of the weapons. They ran to a neighboring farm that had a telephone.
‘There’s a guy in the school with a gun’
According to the transcript, first released to The Associated Press, the initial 911 call about the siege came in to Lancaster County emergency authorities at 10:35 a.m. from that farmer, Amos Smoker.
“There’s a, there’s a guy in the school with a gun,” Smoker said.
After determining the location, the dispatcher transferred the call to state police but the line went dead when Smoker identified himself.
Marie Roberts, the gunman’s wife, called the Lancaster County dispatch center three minutes after her husband. She had received a call from him from the schoolhouse.
“My name is Marie Roberts, my husband just called me and said that he wasn’t coming home and that the police were there and that he left notes for myself and my children and I’m worried that he tried to commit suicide somewhere,” she said, according to the transcript.
Marie Roberts then told the dispatcher that her husband had not revealed his location.
The 911 Dispatcher replied: “OK, and, and all he said to you was that ...”
“I’m not coming home, um, he was upset about something that had happened twenty years ago, and he said he was getting revenge for it, I don’t think he was getting revenge on another person, I’m worried that maybe he was trying to commit suicide,” Marie Roberts said.
‘I’m sorry I couldn’t be here’
After being transferred to state police, Marie Roberts repeated her concern about suicide. She also described what some of her husband’s notes said.
“Like, the thought of not my children, not seeing them grow up, like, let’s see, uh, I’m not even sure, here it is, my daughter Abigail I want you to know that I love you and I’m sorry I couldn’t be here to watch you grow up, that’s how the notes start,” she said.
Roberts had confided to his wife by cell phone that he was tormented by memories of molesting two young relatives 20 years ago. Authorities have so far been unable to substantiate his molestation claims.
The tapes were transcribed by District Attorney Don Totaro, the only person in the county prosecutor’s office to hear them. He declined to describe the tone of any of the callers’ voices, Assistant District Attorney Susan Moyer said.
Totaro’s office refused to release the audiotapes themselves.
“It would really be only salacious to release an audio version at this time,” Moyer said.