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Six dead as sheriff goes on shooting rampage


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Six young people were killed at a house party early yesterday when an off-duty sheriff’s deputy went on a shooting rampage in a small Wisconsin town.

The Forest County deputy sheriff opened fire at 3am in Crandon, a small town of 2,000 people close to the Canadian border, before being shot dead by police. Authorities said that three of the dead were high school students and the other three recent graduates. A seventh victim was in a critical condition in hospital.

Local media identified the gunman as Tyler Peterson, 20, who also worked part time as a Crandon police officer. It is believed that he was killed by a police sniper.

The attack came during traditional weekend high school reunion events, or homecomings, and there was speculation that his former girlfriend was among the victims.

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One of the dead was identified by her mother as 14-year-old Lindsey Stahl. Jenny Stahl, 39, said that her daughter called her on Saturday night and asked whether she could sleep over at a friend’s house.

“I’m waiting for somebody to wake me up right now. This is a bad, bad dream,” the weeping mother said. “All I heard, it was a jealous boyfriend and he went berserk.”

The town was in “lockdown” throughout Sunday morning, with residents forbidden to leave their homes as police searched for the suspect. But last night several parents still had not been notified of the deaths

The families of victims were congregating at local churches, while Wisconsin state troopers arrived at the scene to help the investigation.

In Crandon last night, Bud Evans, an elder at Praise Chapel, said that many families were at his church. “They’re coming and going, there’s probably 100 or more that are gathered here and I’m sure they’re gathered at other places in town as well,” he said. “If there’s five or six children or kids, young adults, whatever, involved in this, I’d know every one of them — the community’s that small and that tight-knit.”

Crandon is known for logging, fishing, hunting and snowmobiling, as well as being home to the World Championship Off-Road Races. But now it will also be known for murder, one of a growing number of American communities scarred by the gun massacres that periodically afflict the United States.

In April, 32 students were shot dead at Virginia Tech university, while last week the Amish community in Pennsylvania marked the anniversary of a school shooting in which many of their children died.

The powerful American gun lobby, however, remains adamant that restrictions on what they claim as the constitutional right to possess firearms would only make killings more likely. Some argue that the Virginia Tech massacre would have been prevented if other students had been allowed to carry guns. They will also argue that little could have been done to stop a sheriff's deputy possessing a weapon.

But supporters of gun control cite the example of Britain, which has some of the tightest firearms laws in the world and where just 50 people were killed in 2005-06 as a result of gun crime. The latest figure in the US is for 2004, when 10,654 people were killed by gunfire.

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