Cokeville Elementary School hostage crisis

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Cokeville Elementary School hostage crisis
Location Cokeville, Wyoming, United States
Date May 16, 1986
Attack type
School bombing, hostage situation, suicide attack
Deaths 2 (both perpetrators)
Non-fatal injuries
79
Perpetrators David Young and Doris Young

The Cokeville Elementary School hostage crisis occurred on May 16, 1986, in Cokeville, Wyoming, United States, when former town marshal David Young, and his wife Doris Young, took 136 children and 18 adults hostage at Cokeville Elementary School.

David Young entered the school with his wife transporting a large gasoline-filled device that appeared to be a bomb. The couple corralled a large group of students and teachers into a single classroom. David Young attached the bomb to his wrist and threatened the group that he might, at any time, move his arm and ignite the bomb.

After a two-and-a-half hour standoff, the children were becoming restless, so the teachers lead them in prayer. The praying appeared to make David Young agitated and he decided to leave the room. Before leaving the room, David Young attached the bomb's detonation device to his wife's wrist.

When the children became increasingly loud, Doris Young began begging the teachers to settle the group down. At one point she lifted her arm sharply and the bomb went off prematurely, injuring Doris Young while David Young was out of the room. Returning to the scene, David Young shot his wife, then himself. All the hostages escaped, though 79 were later hospitalized with burns and injuries.[1]

Background[edit]

David Young was the only police officer in Cokeville for 6 months in 1979. After being fired for misconduct, he moved to Tucson, Arizona. He returned on May 16, 1986 with his wife Doris. At 1:00 pm, they pulled up to the Cokeville Elementary School and unloaded a gasoline bomb, along with four rifles and nine handguns. Vengeance for having been fired did not seem to have been the motive. But rather a philosophy recorded in journal entries referring to a Brave New World where he wanted to reign over intelligent children. He had been aware of above average achievement scores from Cokeville's education system. Journal entries also indicate that he saw opportunity in the close-knit community where he wrote, "Threaten one and all are at your mercy". David Young went to the school office, handing out a manifesto entitled "ZERO = INFINITY" and announcing "This is a revolution!". Teachers were confused and baffled by David's nonsensical and strange writing and due to this deduced that Young and his wife were mentally ill and delusional. Meanwhile, Doris Young went from classroom to classroom, luring 136 children, 6 faculty, 9 teachers, and 3 other adults - including a job applicant and a UPS driver for a total of 154 hostages into a first-grade classroom. She would lure them by telling them there was either an emergency or a surprise or an assembly there.

Standoff[edit]

In the classroom, David Young held the gasoline bomb, with the triggering mechanism attached to a shoelace tied around his wrist. He demanded a ransom of two million dollars per hostage and an audience with President Reagan. With permission, teachers brought in books, art supplies and a television to help keep the children occupied. Meanwhile, police and parents gathered out of sight of the school room where hostages were gathered. Doris Young tried numerous times to calm the children by telling them to "think of it as an adventure movie", or that they "would have a great story to tell their grandchildren". Many children showed signs of distress with sobs, complaining of headaches from the smell of gasoline from the bomb, or simply wanting to go home. One hostage observed a birthday on that day and songs were sung in his honor. Hostage takers took part in the singing. The mood did not lift with the singing and teachers quickly negotiated with the hostage takers to get items from the library to help the kids get their minds off of the trauma, and help to pass the time. Prayers were offered in small groups among the children, and presumably individually as well.

Resolution[edit]

About 2 and 1/2 hours into the standoff, David Young transferred the triggering mechanism of the bomb to Doris' wrist, and went to a small bathroom that connected the first and second grade rooms. While he was gone, Doris Young [2] jerked her hand on the triggering mechanism and the bomb exploded, filling the room with black smoke and severely injuring Doris. Immediately following the detonation, the teachers started to shove children through two open windows onto the grass outside the school, causing chaos as panicked parents tried to break through police lines. Following the explosion, the police report states that David Young opened the door from the connecting bathroom, shot his wife, shot and wounded John Miller, a teacher who was trying to flee, and then closed the door to the small bathroom and killed himself.

Aftermath and Injuries[edit]

76 of the hostages suffered injuries, mostly flash burns and other injuries from the exploding bomb. Several children reported seeing angels in the classroom that day, including many children which claimed to have seen a "beautiful lady" who told them to go near the window. Other children reported seeing an angel over each child's head.[3] Investigators discovered that only one of the bomb's five blasting caps went off, and if it had worked properly, the bomb would have blown off the side of the building and many more would have been injured or died.[3]

Media[edit]

The incident was detailed in the book When Angels Intervene to Save the Children by Hartt Wixom and his wife Judene, which formed the basis for a CBS made for TV movie titled To Save the Children. In 2006, the Cokeville Miracle Foundation compiled a book of recollections about the day from parents, emergency workers and former hostages. The story was also featured on Unsolved Mysteries, Unexplained Mysteries, and I Survived...

A new movie about the incident, The Cokeville Miracle is scheduled to be released April 15, 2015. It is being made by filmmaker T. C. Christensen.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "25 years after school bombing, Wyoming town remembers story of survival". The Billings Gazette. Retrieved July 20, 2012. 
  2. ^ accidentally
  3. ^ a b Jarvik, Elaine. "Cokeville recollects 'miracle' of 1986". Deseret News. Retrieved 24 September 2012. 
  4. ^ "'Cokeville Miracle' coming to the big screen". Retrieved 2014-10-23. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°04′57″N 110°57′19″W / 42.08250°N 110.95528°W / 42.08250; -110.95528