Black and white Sound Cloud icon Black and white YouTube icon Black and white LinkedIn icon Black and white Facebook icon

2006 West Nickel Mines Amish School Shooting

Lesson Learned from a Church Shooting

Man with a gun in a classroom

From the Bible

  • Gates were essential to the security of cities

    Therefore [King Asa] said unto Judah, Let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars ... (2 Chronicles 14:7a).
  • Temple gatekeepers were selected to live in Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt.

    The gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their brothers, who kept watch at the gates, were 172 (Nehemiah 11:19).
  • David pretended to be insane, because he knew the Philistines were afraid of armed madmen:

    “Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?” (1 Samuel 21:15).
  • Insanity is a product of fallen human nature:

    This is an evil ... the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

    As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death (Proverbs 26:18).
  • Introduction

    Amish schools are a product of their religious culture. Each school is owned and operated by two or more local districts (the same as our local congregations) of the Old Order Amish Church. This incident demonstrates that not only churches, but also church-affiliated schools are targets of violence. In either case, any of several factors may motivate an incident. In this case, it is obviously mental illness.

    Videocast and Show Notes

    Kris Moloney discusses this incident in a videocast on the YouTube channel Sheepdog Church Security Academy. Below the video screen is a link to the Church Shooting Lessons Learned Download. This is a PDF which can be printed or attached to messages for sharing with others. The link to the Show Notes (article summary) will be for this article until the next church shooting article is posted.[2]

    The Milkman Cometh

    The driver of a tank truck picking up cans of milk from farms (mostly Amish) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, lived in the next village south of Nickel Mines. On Monday morning, October 2, 2006, he finished his route, went home, and took his kids to the school bus stop. After his wife left for a Bible study, he loaded tools and materials into his pickup truck and headed north to Nickel Mines, then west to a one-room Amish school on White Oak Road. His gear included three firearms, ammunition, and zip ties.

    When he arrived at the West Nickel Mines School about 10:25 am, he pulled his truck up to the building. Everyone had just gone in from recess. Going in, he brandished a handgun and ordered the boys to help bring in wood, nails, and tools. Then he told the boys and several adults to leave, holding the female students and a teacher hostage. However, the teacher got out and, with her mother, ran toward a nearby farm. Also escaping was a young girl who left unnoticed with her brother.

    The man had the eleven remaining girls lie down facing the wall, then zip-tied them by their legs to each other. He boarded the doors from inside, using the wood and nails, and barricaded them with desks and tables.

    The intruder called his wife by cell phone and told her he had been dreaming of molesting girls, claiming he had molested two relatives when he was 12. Judging from gel he brought, he had been planning to sexually assault the Amish girls, something he ended up not doing.

    The teacher and her mother reached a nearby farm. The intruder yelled at them to stop or else, but they kept on running. At the farm, they asked the owner to call 9-1-1, which he did. This call was made at 10:36 am. The dispatcher notified the Pennsylvania State Police.

    Before the police arrived, the farmer and a dog went over to the school, approaching it from the blind side (the back had no windows). As he was easing around to where he might get a peek through a window, the police arrived, and he backed off.

    The arrival of police at 10:42 am interrupted the intruder's plans. They stopped on the road and called to him through the speakers on a patrol car, trying to get him to talk. More officers arrived. The intruder told the girls, "I'm going to make you pay for my daughter." He called 9-1-1 on his cell phone and told the dispatcher that the police had better leave or he would kill the girls. The message did not get to them in time. The farmer and the police heard a volley of gunfire, then silence. By then, the road was crowded with emergency vehicles and onlookers, including parents and neighbors.

    The police ran up the drive to the school. The front door was blocked, as was the rear door, so they broke through the windows. The room was riddled with bullet holes. The girls had been shot, most in the head. The killer was dead from a self-inflicted wound.

    A Good Man Gone Bad

    The killer in this case had been a well-liked, respected person - a good husband and father, a good worker. The knowledge of who did this was just as shocking as the incident itself, a case of "Who would have thought he would do this?" What was not known was his inner turmoil. His widow later told reporters that he was mentally ill.

    When he left the house that morning, the man left notes for his wife and each of their children. He had been depressed ever since their first child was born prematurely and died the same day. For several weeks before the shooting, he'd been despondent.

    There was more said in the call to his wife. He said he felt guilt for molesting two relatives 20 years earlier, when he was 12. She asked him to come home and talk about it, but he said, "No." Investigators said that the relatives had no memory of sexual abuse. It seems that what he thought was molestation was not seen as such by others. It seems like that he was beginning puberty then, and over-interpreted his feelings and his bodily reactions, unnoticed by the others. It may have just been arousal, or perhaps a dream. However, he still felt guilt for it two decades later.

    Sometime after their newborn daughter died, he felt that God was punishing him for youthful indiscretions. He said he was "angry with God." I did not find any mention of him receiving counseling for these feelings.

    He had carefully planned his attack on the school. He did not have any grudges with the Amish. They were just an easy and available target. Some people he knew, including co-workers, noticed that he had been down for several weeks, then about a week before the shooting, he returned to his jovial self. This parallels the path of moods in people who are depressed, but perk up when they've finally planned their suicides.

    What Followed

    The most predictable response to the West Nickel Mines School attack was shock and grief. The entire country shared in this. Of the eleven Amish girls shot, three died on the scene and two in hospitals. Few of the survivors fully recovered. Most had some disability due to the nature of the wounds. One 6-year-old grew up not being able to walk, talk, or feed herself.

    The funeral for the girls was held in nearby Georgetown. The funeral procession was led by state troopers on horseback. Photographs and videos in the media were abundant, but most respected Amish sensibilities by not showing their faces.

    The Amish community demonstrated their sympathy and forgiveness for the shooter's family. They attended his funeral, and at the burial service Amish men formed a wall shielding the family (including his parents) from the media. Amish women helped the widow with cleaning, meals, and childcare, and formed lifelong bonds.

    Ten days after the shooting, the West Nickel Mines schoolhouse was demolished. The work began in predawn hours to reduce road congestion when men were going to work. The building was quickly taken down and the debris hauled off to a landfill. The ground was leveled and seeded _ from pasture it came, to pasture it returned.

    Two hundred yards away, a new schoolhouse was built off another road, and was ready the following April. The New Hope School is on part of the farm of the one victim's family. It is behind non-Amish houses on Mine Road, next door to the family home. On a branch of the driveway, it is not easy to see from the road. The new building was made to not resemble the old school in materials or layout. Even the flooring is different. Until he new school was finished, the boys attend classes in a garage.

    The Amish are not great on security, at least not openly. However, the positioning of the new school makes it easier for neighbors to observe and monitor. The satellite view shows a gate across the drive to the school. News video footage of the incident showed an open gate. Apparently it was not locked that morning. If unlocked, all the killer had to do was unlatch it and drive in. Another Amish School, a bit over a road mile away, is similar in design to the West Nickel Mines School, but with different siding. There is a gate for the driveway, so in this respect they use security.

    Two months later, in December, officers of the Pennsylvania State Police conducted a training session in Missouri for law enforcement officers on dealing with school violence.

    News outlets in and near Lancaster County looked back on the West Nickel Mines School shooting ten, fifteen, and sixteen years later. Of particular interest is how members of the community, families, and first responders have fared since that day.

    Lesson Learned - Lock the Gate

    In the case of Amish schools, many things we use for security in our churches and schools would not be done. No cameras or motion sensors, No window and door alarms. In this incident, there were no indications to prompt a threat assessment. The one thing which could have come between the killer and the school would have been a high, strong fence and a locked, strong gate. He would have had to unload the truck on the side of the road without the risk of someone noticing. Then how would he get it through the gate and up the driveway?

    Applying this lesson to our churches and Christian schools, locked gates and doors are the first barrier to thieves, vandals, arsonists, and attackers. At the very least, they will buy time for people to hide or escape and give a safety team time to respond and a better defensive position. It is also extremely important to lock the doors when there are only a few persons inside, such as office hours during the week.


    Gates and doors are the first physical lines of defense against intruders, especially those with murderous intentions. Keep them closed and locked when unattended, and ready to lock when in use.

    Training Notes

    Each Church Safety Team is encouraged to have all of its members trained and certified through the Safety Member Certification program. A person who has taken each of the eight training modules (classes) and passed its certification test will be a Certified Safety Member for two years.

    There are three training formats: Team Certification (church-hosted classes), Individual Certification (self-paced online instruction), and Online Events (live Zoom classes).[1]

    Team Certification is ideal for training the entire team at once, especially when starting a team and for certification renewal. Depending on location and time, an on-site instructor may be available. Check Sheepdog Church Security's "Certified Onsite Instructors" page.[3]

    Individual Certification is the way to train a new member to an existing team when no classes are scheduled. It can also be used by a team member for a class he or she could not attend.

    Online Events classes are open to both individuals and teams. Kris Moloney teaches these classes on Sunday afternoons at 3:00 Central Time (4 ET, 2 MT, 1 PT). The 2022-2023 school year has four quarters, and is now in the last half of Quarter 2. A person enrolling now can finish this quarter and continue until completing all the classes. The next class is Arson and Fire Safety on January 8.

    Color coding:

    Related to Article







    Training Module


    Sep 11

    Nov 13

    Jan 29

    Mar 26

    Safety Team Fundamentals


    Sep 18

    Nov 20

    Feb 5

    Apr 2

    Active Shooter Response


    Sep 25

    Dec 4

    Feb 12

    Apr 16

    Deescalating Disruptive Persons


    Oct 2

    Dec 11

    Feb 19

    Apr 23

    Protecting Children from Abuse


    Oct 9

    Dec 18

    Feb 26

    Apr 30

    Basic Use of Force Laws


    Oct 16

    Jan 8

    Mar 5

    May 7

    Arson and Fire Safety


    Oct 23

    Jan 13

    Mar 12

    May 21

    Storms and Disasters


    Nov 6

    Jan 22

    Mar 19

    Jun 4

    Mass Trauma Emergencies

    Up Next

    The next article is "The Force of Choice" (Using the Right Level of Force).


    Sheepdog Church Security Resources

    1. Kris Moloney, "Active Shooter Response v4," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
    2. Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Church Security Academy [].
    3. "Certified Online Instructors," Sheepdog Church Security [].

    News Stories

    1. Staff Writer, "Amish School Shooting,", no date listed, Part 1: School Shooting in an Amish One-Room School [], Part 2: Amish Grace and Forgiveness [].
    2. Bryce Mursch, "Police say Amish school shooter dreamed of molesting," WIS TV News, October 2, 2006, Updated October 4, 2006 [].
    3. Larry Abramson, "Police: Gunman Planned Long Siege at Amish School," All Things Considered, NPR, October 2, 2006 [].
    4. Cindy Stauffer, "Inside the mind of a killer: West Nickel Mines School shooter Charles Carl Roberts IV: Mental health experts explain how he may have linked past molestation and death to attack," Lancaster Online, October 4, 2006 [].
    5. Kaitlyn Folmer, Natasha Singh and Suzan Clarke, "Amish School Shooter's Widow, Marie Monville, Speaks Out," ABC News, September 30, 2013 [].
    6. Jennifer Todd (Staff Writer) and Brett Lovelace (Intelligencer Journal), "Gone: West Nickel Mines School ripped down: School erased from earth," Lancaster Online, October 13, 2006 [].
    7. Mike Argento, "Nickel Mines: 'What could be done?'," Lebanon Daily, October 4, 2006, Republished from Archives on October 1, 2016 [].
    8. Captain J. T. "Tim" Hull, "News Release: Emphasis: Patrol Hosts School Violence Training," Missouri State Patrol, December 14, 2006 [].
    9. Merriell Moyer, "Nickel Mines murders still haunt emergency responders," Lebanon Daily, October 1, 2016 [].
    10. Melissa Nardo, "Mother of Amish schoolhouse shooter speaks out after releasing book," Fox43, March 3, 2016 [].
    11. Colby Itkowitz, "Her son shot their daughters 10 years ago. Then, these Amish families embraced her as a friend," The Washington Post, October 1, 2016 [].
    12. Deb Kiner, "Tragedy at West Nickel Mines Amish School 15 years ago: Girls 'were shot execution-style'," Patriot-News / PennLive, October 02, 2021 [].
    13. Anne Shannon, "Amish school shooting: 15 years later," WGAL, October 1, 2021 [].
    14. James Wesser, "16 years since Lancaster County Amish schoolhouse shooting," WHTM, October 2, 2022 [].
    15. "West Nickel Mines School shooting," Wikipedia, Last edited on March 21, 2022 [].