Will Schierenbeck’s quick thinking probably saved the lives of more than 24 students at Las Plumas High School in Oroville.
Schierenbeck, the school’s campus supervisor for 10 years, responded to a hostage situation at the school and gradually talked a gun-wielding student into releasing his student hostages. By the end of the ordeal, all 24 kids were released and the shooter surrendered.
“This is one of the only school shootings that didn’t end with somebody getting killed or hurt,” said Schierenbeck, a member of Feather River Chapter 342.
The episode started when a teacher noticed a student carrying a gun at about 9:10 a.m. on a late September morning. Schierenbeck heard the call about a possible student with a gun on campus near the school’s band room, and responded to check on it.
“As soon as I walked into the door, I ran right into the student. He put his firearm to my face and I put my hands up and said his name, and started backing up and out the door,” Schierenbeck said. “That’s when I knew we had a real situation.
“It was definitely a shock to me. I was expecting it to be a BB gun or a fake rifle. Most of the alarms we have end up being nothing at all.”
An assistant principal flung open the door to get a look inside, prompting the gunman to fire one round in that direction. Nobody was hit, but the situation definitely got more tense. Schierenbeck yelled through the door, telling the students to be calm. He had trouble hearing the gunman, so he yelled his cell phone number. The gunman called.
“We started communicating. At that time, he still had the whole class, about 24 kids, in there,” Schierenbeck said.
The student was apparently distraught about life in general, Schierenbeck said. With police en route in full force, Schierenbeck wanted to try to get as many kids out of the room before a conflict started. Schierenbeck was able to get the gunman to release 15 students in the eight minutes before police arrived.
“I kept working on the situation with him. He let four more kids out and the deputies showed up,” Schierenbeck said, explaining that police decided to wait and see if he could continue to get more students released.
Schierenbeck used different tactics to get the gunman to release students, including asking to have one of the student hostages write down the names of the students still inside and bring it out to police. Another time, the gunman traded two hostages for an assurance that the SWAT team wouldn’t enter the room.
Other than frayed nerves, a bullet hole in a wall and one in the ceiling, nobody was injured. Schierenbeck felt good to have the situation end peacefully and with no injuries.
“I know I did everything I could possibly have done,” he said. “I was pleased that I was able to do what I needed to do.”
Despite the danger, Schierenbeck said he was prepared to do whatever it took to ensure the students’ safety. “I’m glad he didn’t start shooting, because I had made my mind up that if he did, I was going to have to go in and disarm him,” he said.
While Schierenbeck has been described as a hero since the incident, he said protecting the students is his responsibility every day.
“I was just doing my job. I look at all these kids as being my kids,” Schierenbeck said. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them.”