Student gunman dies after Maryland school shooting; two other students injured
A student opened fire at Great Mills High School in Southern Maryland Tuesday morning, critically injuring two other students before he was confronted by a school resource officer, according to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office.
The officer and gunman exchanged fire in a hallway, authorities said. They said the gunman, identified as 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins, was mortally wounded, but it was not clear if he was shot by the officer or hit by his own round at the school 70 miles south of Washington, D.C.
Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron said at an afternoon press conference the shooter and two students, ages 16 and 14, were rushed to the hospital. The school resource officer, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Deputy Blaine Gaskill, was not injured, the sheriff said.
Rollins was pronounced dead at 10:41 a.m. Cameron said.
A prior relationship existed between Rollins and the female student shot and authorties are exploring whether it played a role in the shooting.
“I think everybody went above and beyond the call of duty in this particular instance,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said at the afternoon press conference.
Police cordon off the Dr. James A. Forrest Career & Technology Center in Leonardtown, Md., as parents arrive to pick up children after the students were moved from Great Mills High School due to a shooting. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
Cameron said there was “no question” the situation would have been worse if the SRO had not engaged the shooter in an interview with The Post. He said the officer pursued the shooter down the hallway and each fired a single shot at each other, before the incident ended. The shooter had a handgun.
Cameron said they are still investigating a motive and it’s unclear whether the shooter knew the students who were shot.
“In my mind, it’s a school shooting in the classical sense, but the investigation will have to determine if there was any connection between the shooter and the victims,” Cameron said.
MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital said in a statement that it is treating the 14-year-old boy and he is in “good condition.” The 16-year-old girl was stabilized and transferred to UM Prince George’s Hospital Center, Medstar said.
The school was placed on lock down as the situation unfolded and parents were warned to stay away. Video from the scene showed police cruisers with lights whirring outside the school, while others could be heard heading to the school.
Isaiah Quarles, a 10th-grader, was walking to his first period class Tuesday morning. He didn’t hear a gunshot but saw a girl falling to the ground. He thought she had fainted but then there were screams and shouts and someone yelled about a gun.
“Everyone started running and I started running, too,” Quarles said. “I was scared.”
The 16-year-old ran to his class. His teacher remained calm, he said, and soon there was an announcement on the public address system. “Our principal said there was a lockdown but no one was going to be harmed,” Quarles said.
Tyriq Wheeler, 17, was headed to his English class when he heard a loud bang. He hustled to class after he heard someone was shot.
A lockdown was announced once he made it to class. The class lowered the blinds and locked the door. Students pulled out their phones, contacting their parents and checking the news.
Wheeler remembered thinking, “Is this really happening?”
Last week, Wheeler walked out with other Great Mills students to protest gun violence because “kids shouldn’t be taken from the world so early.”
On Tuesday, as he was picked up from a nearby high school, he said, “I’m grateful I’m still alive. I’m grateful that I can see my mother and sister and, to be honest, I just want to get home.”
Wheeler’s mother, Darlena Montague, said she was born and raised in the District but wanted to raise her son in Southern Maryland because it was safer.
“This is just scary to me,” she said. “Things can happen anywhere.”
At Leonardtown High School, where parents were told to meet their children, cars crowded in front of the school as parents picked up students.
Jordan Hutchinson, 14, attends Fairlead Academy but waits for his bus at Great Mills in the mornings, he said. He was in the school lobby when he heard gunshots and fled for the bus parked outside.
“I was shook, at first,” he said. “Then I got on the bus and started yelling at the bus driver.”
Hutchinson’s mother, Latoya Mason, also has a son who attends Great Mills. Bullying has been a problem there, she said.
Her son was not physically hurt in the shooting, she said, but is emotionally distraught. “He told me he’s not okay, and he needs to talk to someone about it,” Mason said.
Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Hyattsville offices were on the scene. The FBI’s Baltimore office also said they are on the scene, assisting local authorities.
Ronda Neville who lives in Sebastian, Fla., has a niece who is in the 11th grade at Great Mills, and said in a phone interview that she was waiting to hear from her niece who is in the 11th grade at Great Mills. She hasn’t heard from her or the girl’s father, who is her brother-in-law.
“I’m sick over this,” she said. Her two sons graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a former student of the school last month shot and killed 14 classmates and three staff members.
Neville said one of her sons texted her just after 9 a.m. after he heard about the Maryland school shooting. He had gone to Great Mills at one point, she said.
He wrote, “Oh my god. There’s a shooting [at Great Mills],” Neville said she sent a text message to her brother-in-law, the teen’s father.
Just before 10 a.m., Neville said she got a text from the girl’s father saying her niece had stayed home from school. He didn’t say why, but said she was safe.
Neville, who said she attended funerals for friends, a coach and teachers who were killed in Parkland, was “still sick to my stomach.”
Great Mills High School has had recent safety concerns.
Parents and students from Great Mills High School leave Leonardtown High School in Leonardtown, Md. Parents were picking up children after the students were moved from Great Mills High School due to a shooting. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
Parents at the school became worried after a Feb. 20 Snapchat post that warned students of a possible shooting, according to The Bay Net. com.
In response to the report of a threat, the principal — Jake Heibel — sent a message to parents and told of a report of a student in a hallway mentioning a shooting. He said it had been investigated and “the threat was not substantiated.”
The school held a public meeting earlier this month to discuss the threat, he said.
There has been an incident at Great Mills High School. Parents please DO NOT respond to the school. Report to Leonardtown High School
Great Mills High, where the incident occurred, has about 1,600 students and starts its school day at 7:45 a.m., school officials said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Maryland State Police are “in touch with local law enforcement and ready to provide support.” He added: “Our prayers are with students, school personnel and first responders.”
A spokesman for Hogan said the governor was monitoring the situation and had canceled a planned radio appearance Tuesday morning.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said, “having a trained, professional school resource officer made a difference … armed school resource officers are available in our high schools and that’s important.” But he said, “We need common sense gun safety legislation.”
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), whose district includes St. Mary’s County, canceled his usual weekly briefing on Capitol Hill to go to the county to meet with parents at a center close to the Leonardtown High School. Hoyer tweeted that his prayers “are with the students, parents, and teachers” at Great Mills.
Ed Clarke, executive director of the Maryland Center for School Safety, was headed to the sceneto provide state assistance. He said St. Mary’s was as well-prepared and well-trained as any jurisdiction in Maryland to handle such a tragedy.
In recent weeks, he said, authorities arrested two county teenagers for a threat against a different high school, intervening before any violence took place. The two students were found in possession of numerous firearms, according to new reports at the time.