The gunman claimed he had explosives in a backpack and was wielding a handgun, authorities said. He released four hostages one by one, then abruptly cut off communication with authorities and set a deadline that forced authorities to act.
He said authorities used explosives as they entered the classroom, only to have the suspect fire at officers, shoot one of the girls and then himself.
School was canceled for the rest of the week at the high school and the adjoining middle school in this tiny mountain town.
The lines of students fleeing the schools, the bomb squads and the frantic parents scrambling to find their loved ones evoked memories of the Columbine attack, where two students killed 13 people before taking their own lives.
Michael Owens, who has one son at the middle school and another in the high school, said the anxiety was worse because the memory of Columbine was still fresh.
"Things that are out of your control, you just do what you can do," he said. "It's like an earthquake."
Sophomore Zack Barnes, 16, said his class moved to a room that turned out to be next to the one where the hostages were being held. They turned out the lights and sat in silence in the dark for about 20 minutes before police guided them out.
"I was just praying it wasn't a mass killing," Barnes said.
The schools have an enrollment of about 770 students, with 460 in the high school.
On the Net:
High school site: http://plattechs.tripod.com/index.htm