From 1990: Hostages’ fear diminished as teen discussed troubles

Coverage of a September 1990 standoff at South Forsyth County High School

As Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene defended herself Thursday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, she referred to a 1990 hostage situation at a Forsyth County high school to explain her position on gun rights.

Greene appeared to be referencing a September 1990 standoff at South Forsyth County High School when an armed student held hostages he had gathered from two classrooms.

Greene was enrolled at the school at the time but wasn’t among the hostages, a Forsyth County Schools spokeswoman said, adding that she could not confirm whether Greene attended that day.

Here is the original story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, published Sept. 7, 1990

The hostages were trembling with fear when their ordeal began Thursday morning, but they gradually came to see the student gunman not as a hair- trigger threat but as just another kid mad at his parents.

Russell David, a 16-year-old sophomore at South Forsyth High School, said he feared at first because the armed student told police he would blow the hostages’ heads off if his demands for food, drinks and a school bus were not met.

But Russell said that later he grew more fearful that police might force a confrontation. “I wasn’t scared of him. I was scared of what the police would do when he stepped into the hall, and I was afraid of what the police were planning to do as he walked from the room to the bus.”

Russell said he and several other hostages made a plan to overpower their captor after he ate. “We decided to wait till he got relaxed and laid his gun down. Then he laid it down and we made our move,” he said.

“He showed no resistance when we took the gun away and didn’t fight the police,” Russell said.

“We were all getting really worn down. We were sick of sitting there,” said D.C. Woodall, who grabbed the shotgun. “Looking at it now, it was probably stupid, since we subjected ourselves to being shot. [But] I thought that if we didn’t do anything one of us would get hurt.

“I never smoked in my life, but I went through three cigarettes, I was so nervous.”

The youth “talked with us and told us everything that was going on in his head,” said Randy Abercrombie, another of the hostages. “Every time he held the gun to somebody’s head, he would take the bullets out. It was nerve-wracking.”

Another hostage, Isreal Frady, a 16-year-old ninth-grader, said: “I wasn’t afraid of dying. . . . I didn’t think he would shoot one of us. He trusted us enough to lay his gun down.” Isreal said he knew the student, “but I didn’t think he’d do something like this.”

Angie Ross, the only female among the final hostages, said that students were “marched into our room with their hands on their heads. . . . We were on the floor by then. Then [he] came in and yelled, ‘Everyone put your hands up.’ We were terrified at first.”

Angie said she chose to stay in the classroom after he released the other girls “because I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to help.”

Outside the school, Edward Abercrombie, father of hostage Randy Abercrombie, said he was “scared to death. We all were. You hear about it happening somewhere else to someone else’s kids.”

“It was a living nightmare that you didn’t think you’d ever wake up from,” said Rita David, Russell’s mother, who raced to the school from Alpharetta when she heard about the incident at 9:30 Thursday morning.

“I knew he was a hostage, call it mother’s intuition or whatever,” Mrs. David said. Her suspicions were confirmed at 10 a.m., shortly after she arrived at the school.

“I’m exhausted, mad and still scared,” Mrs. David said. “You hear about these things happening at big city schools, but you never dream it will happen in rural schools. I didn’t know if I’d ever see [Russell’s] face again.”

Mrs. David said police and school officials “bent over backwards” to comfort the parents who were housed in the principal’s office during the ordeal.

Russell said the student used him and the others as human shields when police brought requested items. “He made one of us answer the door and the rest of us stand around him.”

The teenager repeatedly told the hostages that he would not hurt them, Russell said. “He said he wanted to get away from things and make a point. He said his parents were mean, that he was tired of how they treated him and that he had no friends and just wanted to get away.”

After their release, Russell said that he and the other hostages left the classroom, hugged each other in the hallway and were led to another classroom by police.

“The police did a good job,” Russell said. “They were real cool, especially the cop that he talked to on the phone. He talked a lot and we joked around.”

Said Russell: “I’m just very tired.”

Staff writer Mara Rose Williams contributed to this article.