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7th-grade boy kills teacher

The 13-year-old, sent home earlier, comes back with a gun just minutes before the school year was to end.

By Times staff, wire reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2000


LAKE WORTH -- In the last minutes of the last day of school, a seventh-grader at Lake Worth Middle School walked up to a teacher in the breezeway outside a classroom Friday and shot him to death in front of six students.

The 13-year-old boy, who earned A's and B's and had no history of trouble, was sent home by an assistant principal earlier in the day over "some horseplay involving water balloons."

The boy, identified as Nathaniel Brazill, returned about two hours later and shot language arts teacher Barry Grunow. He told police he liked Grunow, who died where he was shot just before 3:30 p.m.

The final bell was nine minutes away.

Nathaniel was caught a quarter of a mile from school when he flagged down a patrol car after running several blocks along railroad tracks, police said.

"He asked the officer if he had heard about what happened at the school," said Lt. Raychel Houston of the Lake Worth Police Department. "He said he had been involved in what happened."

The boy handed over a .25-caliber Raven semiautomatic pistol with three bullets in it and said he was responsible for the shooting at the one-story, red brick school just south of West Palm Beach, she said.

According to police, Nathaniel left school about 1:30 p.m. after being sent home over the water balloon incident.

He returned on his bicycle about 3:15 p.m. and tried to say goodbye to several girls in Grunow's classroom, Houston said. Grunow, 35, stepped out into the open-air walkway and told Brazill to leave.

"I saw him shoot him right around the temple," said Timothy Gandolfo, 13, also a seventh-grader at the school. "Nate said, "Ha, ha, what are you going to do now?' "

Gandolfo said he hid under a table in a classroom as Nathaniel ran from the school.

Amanda Grunwald, 13, said Grunow, who taught seventh-grade English literature and coached basketball, was talking to students in the hallway when he was shot.

"He was standing out in the hall, telling everybody to go back into class because it wasn't time to be dismissed," she said. "Five seconds later he was shot."

Police, who said they viewed a surveillance camera's tape of the shooting, charged Nathaniel with first-degree murder. He is to appear in court today.

Eighth-grade student Mark Ariot, 13, said that two weeks ago he heard the suspect talk about his grandfather's gun.

Nathaniel's 74-year-old grandmother, Everlena Josey, walked into the police station after hearing her grandson's name on TV.

Earlier in the afternoon, about 2:30 p.m., the boy, who lives with his mother, knocked on the door of his grandmother's house, Mrs. Josey said. He wanted the key to his own house.

A teacher had called Nathaniel's mother at work, but was told "let him walk home, I'm at work," Mrs. Josey said.

"He looked like he was mad," Mrs. Josey said. "I said, "What's wrong?' "

She said her grandson didn't respond. "He took off like a dog."

Lake Worth police Chief William Smith said the boy had taken the pistol a week ago from a dresser drawer in the home of his grandfather, who owned it.

The chief called the gun a "typical Saturday night special."

The .25-caliber Raven seized by police is manufactured by Phoenix Arms. The pistol is compact, barely 5 inches long.

Nathaniel had good grades and perfect attendance, said Nat Harrington, a spokesman for the School Board.

"He had no problems of any kind, prior to this," he said.

Outside the apartment where Nathaniel lives with his mother, stepfather and 2-year-old sister, neighbors said the boy was not a troublemaker.

Carmen Torres said she often heard him playing the flute or would see him playing basketball outside with his friends.

Late Friday, Grunow's Classroom 301 was empty, frozen in time. A party-style banner hung over the class chalk board: "Welcome to Mr Grunow's class." Behind the teacher's desk a painting of Bugs Bunny was stuck to the board.

On several desks lay the belongings left behind by students -- a tan purse, a paper cup, schoolbooks and a black sweater. Two computers at one side of the room had not been switched off.

Over the entrance to the school remained a banner reading "Have a Safe and Wonderful Summer!"

Parents and students have been invited back to the school this morning for counseling from School Board psychologists and social workers.

Grunow had been with the Palm Beach County School District since 1987. He and his wife, Pam, have a 5-year-old son and a newborn daughter.

- Staff writers David Adams and Robin Mitchell contributed to this report, which includes information from the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Miami Herald and Associated Press.

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