Photo credit: St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office
ST. MARY'S COUNTY, Md. - A school resource officer is being credited with stopping the gunman in a shooting that injured two students at a St. Mary’s County high school Tuesday morning.
Authorities say a 17-year-old student fired shots inside a hallway at Great Mills High School at about 7:55 a.m. Deputies said the shooter, identified as Austin Rollins, shot a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, both of whom are also students.
School Resource Officer Deputy 1st Class Blaine Gaskill was alerted to the shooting and according to Sheriff Tim Cameron, he immediately responded and engaged Rollins. Sheriff Cameron said Deputy Gaskill fired at the shooter, and almost simultaneously, the shooter also fired. It’s not clear yet whether Deputy Gaskill’s round hit the shooter.
Rollins was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. The female student was taken to PG Shock Trauma, where she is in ICU with life-threatening critical injuries. The male student who was injured is in stable condition at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. Deputy Gaskill was not injured.
Sheriff Cameron told reporters at an afternoon press briefing that Deputy Gaskill, a six-year veteran of the force who is in his first year at Great Mills High School, was able to contain the situation within 1 minute of the time the initial shot was fired.
“He responded exactly as we train our personnel to respond,” Sheriff Cameron said. “I’m sure right now in the aftermath of this he’s doing well, and we’re going to do everything to support and promote him in his well-being. You have to understand the situation that he responded in. These are children, as Dr. Smith (St. Mary's County Schools Superintendent) said. I’m sure that weighs on his mind.”
Based on the initial findings, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said it seems like Deputy Gaskill’s response to the situation should serve as an example for other school districts.
“It sure sounds like this is exactly the way that it should have been handled,” Governor Hogan said. “Had a very capable school resources officer that also happened to be a SWAT team member. This is a tough guy who apparently closed in very quickly and took the right kind of action. I think while it’s still tragic, he may have saved other people’s lives.”
While a motive in the shooting cannot yet be confirmed, Sheriff Cameron said the initial investigation indicated that there was a prior relationship between the shooter and the 16-year-old girl who was shot. Deputies are still working to determine the extent of that relationship, while also reviewing the shooter’s electronic devices and all aspects of social media as part of the investigation.
Tuesday’s shooting comes as the nation is still reeling from a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which claimed 17 lives on February 14. Politicians were quick to respond to yet another school shooting, calling for action against gun violence.
While Hogan praised the school resource officer’s quick response, he also slammed Maryland legislators for not taking quicker action to protect students at school. Last month, Hogan pledged emergency legislation in the form of a $125 million commitment for capital improvements to make Maryland's schools safer from violence like school shootings and added another $50 million annually to pay for school resource officers, counselors and technology, but legislators have not yet taken action-- something Hogan said Tuesday is "outrageous."
“No parent should have to worry about when they send their kids off in the morning to school whether they are going to come home safely or not,” said Gov. Hogan. “And we need more than prayers.”
St. Mary’s County Schools Superintendent Dr. James Scott Smith said there have been two community conversations about school safety since the Florida shooting, and metal detectors have been among the topics discussed. He said schools in the county don’t currently have metal detectors, and pointed out there is a cost involved to add the equipment and the staff necessary to put them in place.
Dr. Smith called what happened Tuesday at Great Mills High School his community’s worst fear realized.
“If you don’t think this can happen at your school, you are sadly mistaken,” he said.
Anyone with information related to the investigation into the Great Mills High School shooting is asked to call the FBI at (800) CALL FBI (800-225-5324).