Thursday, December 9, 2004
By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A hunter's stray bullet pierced a wall at an elementary school near
Uniontown yesterday, hitting a backpack in a classroom filled with
No one was injured in the incident, which happened around 2 p.m. at D.
Ferd Swaney Elementary School on Township Drive, according to Walter
Vicinelly, superintendent for the Albert Gallatin Area School District.
Authorities said the shooting appeared accidental.
Charges were pending last night against two juveniles who were hunting
near the school at the time of the shooting.
State police and state Game Commission officials confiscated two rifles
and ammunition from the 16-year-old males. A third juvenile was at the scene
but did not have a rifle.
School officials ordered the district's eight other schools to activate
their crisis plans, telling staff to watch for suspicious activity.
"We went on lockdown," Vicinelly said. "I didn't know if
we had a sniper situation, and I didn't want to take any chances."
A witness told officials that a group of hunters were gathered on a hill
near the school at the time of the shooting, Vicinelly said.
The bullet hit the front of the school, about two feet above the window,
going through the wall and striking a backpack in a classroom. The teacher
in the room, Wendy Mickey, told her students to lie on the floor and called
the principal's office. Moments later, she took the children to the
"She did exactly what she needed to do," Vicinelly said. "She
needs to be recognized for that."
The teacher could not be reached for comment last night.
Vicinelly, who arrived at the scene soon after the shooting, said he did
not know exactly how many children were in the room, but a typical classroom
holds about 15 students. Police, school security officials and the Game
Commission were called to the scene.
School officials called the parents of each child that had been in the
classroom. The rest of the school's 390 students took letters home to their
A team of counselors will be at the school this morning, said Vicinelly.
(Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at