September 24, 1937
During a strange ploy to impress a girl he liked, Robert Snyder (12) shoots his school principal and attempts suicide
Snyder wanted to impress fellow student Gloria Moore by showing how tough he was. He went home while school was in session to retrieve his father’s gun and entered principal June Mapes’ office. His plan was to bring Gloria into the office whereupon he would hold Mapes hostage at gunpoint and force the principal to chauffeur the children to an ice cream shop.
Snyder told Mapes to summon Gloria and was told he would have to wait until the end of the school day. Unhappy with the response, he produced the gun. Mapes, fearful, seemingly changed her mind and said she would fetch the girl. Snyder recognized the ruse and ordered Mapes to use the school buzzer system instead, then shot her in the abdomen. It is unclear if the shooting was intentional. Snyder then shot four more times, missing Mapes, before he fled the school and shot himself in the head.
Mapes, wanting to keep the incident quiet, called Snyder’s parents rather than the police or a doctor. She then learned of Snyder’s suicide attempt. Two hours after the shooting, police were notified, though Mapes refused to press charges, stating the boy needed mental care rather than incarceration. Mapes blamed the shooting on “too many lurid movies and too many radio thrillers.” She added, “I can’t recall ever punishing him or speaking harshly to him. I don’t think he had a grudge. The whole thing was like a movie performance. He seemed to be acting all the time. He had that tense dramatic manner.”
Both Snyder and Mapes recovered from their injuries. Snyder was later temporarily placed in the Trinity Evangelical German Lutheran parochial school, where he was under “constant psychiatric supervision.”