"He did traumatize and assault our children," Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said. When pressed, he added, "I'll only say that it's sexual in nature."
Wegener identified the suspect as Duane R. Morrison, 53, and said was he from the Denver area but had been living in his car. He said investigators had not established any previous connection between him and the Bailey area, much less the hostages.
When the gunman came into the classroom, and started releasing the boys but keeping the girls, 16-year-old male student Cassidy Grigg had a feeling he knew why.
"He came in the room with a gun and shot the gun on the ground and said 'Get up on the (black)board or I'm going to shoot you," Grigg said on CBS News' The Early Show. "He went one by one and told us, hey, you could stay in the room, or you could leave. And he got to me and I told him that I didn't want to go, that I wanted to stay. And the reason I wanted to stay was because the girls were in the room."
His mother Larina told the Rocky Mountain News her son was given an ultimatum.
"The gunman swung around, put the gun right in his face and said, 'You need to leave.'"
"He was just an old guy who came on a mission, and I think he got what he wanted," Cassidy Grigg said while making the rounds of the television talk shows Thursday.
Not much is known yet about Morrison. He wore a hooded sweatshirt and a backpack. State records showed he was arrested in July in the west Denver suburb of Lakewood, Colo., on a charge of obstructing police in another suburb. He was also arrested for larceny and marijuana possession in 1973.
He was living in his vehicle, Wegener said Thursday morning, but had a Denver address.
"The motive at this time still remains a mystery," Wegener said.
At first, Morrison talked directly to hostage negotiators. Then he would communicate only through his six hostages, and then, after he had released four of them, he stopped talking at all.
Wegener defended his decision to have the SWAT team storm the Platte Canyon High School classroom.
"My decision was to wait and possibly have two dead hostages," the sheriff said.
Based on information from the SWAT team that the girls were being or had been sexually assaulted, "This is why I made the decision I did, we had to go save them," Wegener said.
Morrison shot one of the hostages, Emily Keyes, 16, in the head, then killed himself. Keyes later died at a hospital.
"Being a sheriff in a small community, knowing all the parents, knowing the kids — my daughter graduated last year, my son's a junior here — it is very difficult. Because I'd want whoever was in my position to do the same thing. And that is to save lives," he said. He himself had a son in the school as the drama unfolded.