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Principal, 9 Others Held Hostage in Va.

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A 21-hour takeover of a northern Virginia high school ended last Thursday morning when a gunman, a former student, released nine hostages in small groups and finally surrendered the high-powered rifle he used to hold them in the school's administrative office, police said.

James Stevens, 18, was charged with 10 counts of abduction and 10 counts of the use of firearms in the commission of a felony, police said.

Mr. Stevens entered Lake Braddock Secondary School about 1 P.M. last Wednesday to find a girlfriend who had spurned a marriage proposal, police said. When the girl fled the school, he took over the main office. Police said he fired several shots during the incident.

Mr. Stevens, who dropped out of Lake Braddock last year and was working at a nearby clothing store, was unaware, according to police, that he was holding anyone beside the school's principal, John Allwood, for several hours.

Nine other people were cornered in an adjacent office that had no other exit. Even by the end of the siege, Mr. Stevens did not know about one of the hostages, police said.

Shortly after the siege began, students were evacuated in waiting school buses and police cars.

Police and the young man's stepfather, who is a local police officer, talked with Mr. Stevens and brought him food--including ice cream and pizza--and coffee.

Two of the hostages were freed six hours after the ordeal started, and four more were released early Thursday morning. Two more were released at 9 A.M. Thursday, and the principal and the last hostage were freed an hour later, police said.--ce

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