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Friday March 9, 2001

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Teen praised for persuading classmate to drop gun after cafeteria shooting

By The Associated Press

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - A 14-year-old boy said he had the safety of other students in mind when he persuaded a classmate to put down her gun after she allegedly shot another student in the shoulder at their Roman Catholic school.

"The principal told me to get back, but you could tell she was really mad and she looked like she was about to go off on everybody," freshman Brent Paucke said. "I got up and started talking to her. I didn't want anyone to get hurt."

Police commended Paucke for his courage Wednesday in approaching the 14-year-old girl, getting her to drop the revolver and then kicking it away when she turned to listen to school officials.

Kimberly Marchese, 13, was shot in the shoulder during lunchtime Wednesday at Bishop Neumann Junior-Senior High's cafeteria. There were no other injuries.

Yesterday morning, the Rev. Andrew Kurovsky, a former principal, visited Marchese at the hospital, where she was recovering after surgery.

"She's doing well. It was a surface wound kind of thing, but she's obviously scared to death," he said.

Her mother, Christine Marchese, said she stayed up with her daughter most of the night.

"She had a very rough night," Christine Marchese told ABC's "Good Morning America." "We've been crying a lot and talking all night. I think it's best we talk and get it out."

Classes were canceled yesterday, but counselors were at the school to offer support to anyone who needed it. The school planned a prayer service when it reopens today.

Kurovsky said the approximately 230 students who attend the school in north-central Pennsylvania had attended a regularly scheduled Mass before Wednesday's lunchtime shooting. At the service, Kurovsky asked the students to pray for those at Santana High School in Santee, Calif., where two days earlier a teen-ager allegedly opened fire with a pistol, killing two students and wounding 13 other people.

"It was my worst nightmare," Kurovsky said. "The fact that they were girls and that we are a Catholic institution, it does bother me. But no one is immune."

The suspect was charged as a juvenile with attempted homicide and aggravated assault.

Police said the gun was a .22-caliber revolver that came from the girl's home and registered to a man with the same name as the girl's father. Police would not confirm it was the father's.

Police said the suspect had feuded with Marchese, in the past. Michael Marchese, Kimberly's father, denied that yesterday.

He told "Good Morning America" he saw the girls chatting regularly after school and that "Kimmy got along good with everybody."

The suspect's attorney, George Lepley, said his client had been subjected to "a lot of name-calling, derogatory comments and innuendoes."

Paucke and fellow student Andrew Miller, 16, said they were already in the crowded cafeteria when the girl came in screaming.

"She told everyone to get down," Miller said. "She fired toward the ceiling, then fired into the ground, which ricocheted and hit the girl in the shoulder."

Paucke said he ducked under a lunchroom table when he heard the shots, but then recognized the girl from his school bus.

"She was saying, 'I don't want to live. I should just commit suicide right here.' And she pointed the gun at her head," Paucke said.

He said his mind "just blanked" as he walked toward her in the cafeteria. Everything was silent except for her yelling.

"I was saying, ... 'you don't have to do this. It doesn't have to be like this. It can be better. Just put the gun down or give it to me,'" Paucke said.

When she didn't immediately drop the weapon, Paucke said he turned and started walking away.

"I turned back around and said, ... 'just put the gun down.' Then she dropped it," he said.

Paucke kicked the gun away when a school official distracted her, police Officer David Ritter said.

Ritter couldn't confirm that the bullet ricocheted. He said it appeared the "individual walked up behind her, shot her in the shoulder," but that the shooter didn't intend to hurt anyone else.