“Jeremiah Small was shot and killed by a student at a Christian school in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, Iraq,” The Seattle Times reports.
3/1/2012 Iraq (Seattle Times) – A classroom debate at a Christian school devolved into gunfire Thursday when, inexplicably, a student pulled a gun and fatally shot first his teacher, then himself.
The teacher, Jeremiah Small, from Cosmopolis, Grays Harbor County, had been with the Medes School in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah since 2006, his family says.
The murder-suicide marked the rare violent death of an American in Iraq’s most peaceful region.
Kurdish authorities said 18-year-old Biyar Sardar al Talabani shot his friend and 33-year-old gym teacher, before turning the gun on himself at the private English-speaking school during a morning sports lecture. Talabani died later at a nearby hospital.
The U.S. State Department confirmed Small’s identity.
About twice a year, Mr. Small returned home to a large family in the Grays Harbor area. A younger brother, Mattaniah Small, described Jeremiah, the eldest of seven children, as a dedicated teacher and devoted Christian.
“Every time he left, it was a little bit of, ‘Don’t know if we’ll see you again, but here’s to hoping,’ ” Mattaniah Small, 30, said Thursday, adding that the family was devastated by their loss.
“We always figured if something did happen, it would be a political thing, not a student. He had such a love for his students, and his students really loved him,” he said.
Teachers and students told family that Talabani and Mr. Small were friends, and that they were arguing on the same side of the classroom debate, which made the shooting all the more puzzling.
“There was no apparent animosity,” Mattaniah Small said.
Eyewitnesses in Iraq described a scene of chaos in the classroom Thursday, with some students fainting in fear after shots were fired.
Ahmed Mohammed said he was sitting in the front of the classroom and Talabani was in back.
“Then I heard the gunshot,” said Mohammed, his face pale. “I turned my head and saw the body of the American teacher on the ground with blood near it. All the students started to run out of the room. Seconds later, as I was running to the reach the school gate, I heard another gunshot.”
A short time later, another student shouted that Talabani had killed himself, Mohammed said.
Sulaimaniyah police spokesman Sarkawit Mohammed, no relation to Ahmed, said the shooting appeared to be a murder-suicide, but provided no motive. He said Talabani hid the gun in his clothes before the lecture at the school, which offers elementary through secondary-grade-level classes.