Religion · Wyoming

Man takes elementary school hostage to create “Brave New World” by killing children, self

May 16, 1986
Cokeville, Wyoming
David and Doris Young take an elementary school hostage to create a “Brave New World”

David Young had previously been Cokeville’s town marshal, though he had been relieved of his duties due to misconduct. Despite his recent firing, the motive behind the attack on the elementary school seemed to have been somewhat religious in nature.

On May 16, the Youngs entered Cokeville Elementary with a gasoline bomb. They took 136 children and 18 adults hostage, demanding $2 million ransom for each child. David Young, who had reportedly spent years trying to mathematically prove God does not exist, told his hostages that he planned to use a gasoline bomb to kill the children, himself, and his wife, and destroy the ransom money in an effort to create a “Brave New World” in which he would reign.

During the two-and-a-half hour standoff, the teachers and students — being from a small, Mormon community — continually prayed. This apparently agitated David who stepped outside the room used to corral the hostages. Before he left, he removed a string connecting his wrist to the gasoline bomb’s detonator, and tied it to Doris’ wrist.

While he was gone, a teacher reportedly commented she was experiencing a headache and touched her head. Doris stated she had one as well, mimicking the gesture as she spoke. Doing so pulled the string attached to the bomb, causing it to explode. Fortunately, not all the firing caps detonated which reduced the extent of the intended blast. David came back to the room, shot his burning wife, then went to a bathroom to shoot himself.

Seventy-nine students and teachers were treated for burns or other injuries, but the Youngs were the only fatalities in the incident.

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