St. Mary’s County, MD – The 17-year-old gunman is dead, and two other students are wounded, after an early morning shooting at a St. Mary’s County high school.
Authorities have said that the school resource officer on duty at Great Mills High School engaged the shooter and stopped the threat, preventing additional loss of life.
“School Resource Officer Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill immediately responded and engaged the shooter,” St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
“He fired at the shooter and, almost simultaneously, the shooter fired,” Sheriff Cameron said.
The sheriff identified the gunman as a student named Austin Wyatt Rollins, and said that he had opened fire with a Glock semi-automatic handgun just before 8 a.m. in Hallway F at the high school.
Police said that Rollins shot a 16-year-old female student and a 14-year-old male student before Deputy Gaskill fired the shot that stopped his rampage.
“It sure sounds like this is exactly the way it should have been handled by a very good SRO who is also a SWAT team officer… while it’s tragic, he may have saved some other people’s lives,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said at the press conference.
The sheriff said that only seconds – “less than a minute” – elapsed between the time when the first shot rang out, and when Deputy Gaskin eliminated the threat to other students in the hallway.
Ultimately, investigators will have to determine whether the school resource officer’s bullet killed Rollins, or if the gunman’s fatal wound was self-inflicted. Sheriff Cameron said they don’t yet know whether Rollins shot at Deputy Gaskill, or at himself.
The sheriff said Deputy Gaskill was unharmed, and had “responded exactly as we train our personnel to respond.”
All of the victims were transported to hospitals. Rollins was pronounced dead shortly before 11 a.m.
The female victim, who appeared to be the gunman’s initial target, was in critical condition at Prince George’s County Shock Trauma. The male student was in stable condition at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.
Sheriff Cameron said there was evidence that a prior relationship existed between the shooter and his first victim, although police hadn’t found any “pre-incident” signs of the impending shooting.
“Our detectives in the interviews have determined that there was a prior relationship – the extent of which I can’t comment on at this time,” Sheriff Cameron said.
He said that law enforcement has initiated a trace on the gun Rollins used to shoot his classmates, and that they were reviewing footage from surveillance cameras inside the school. The sheriff said he didn’t know how much ammunition Rollins had brought with him to the school.
Investigators were looking at multiple crime scenes including a car, the shooter’s social media, and the shooter’s home, in addition to the high school, Sheriff Cameron said.
He said they do not believe Tuesday’s shooting was related to a spate of social media threats recently received by Great Mills and other Maryland high schools.
St. Mary’s County Schools Superintendent Dr. J. Scott Smith addressed security questions about Great Mills High School at the press briefing, as reporters asked how a gun could have been brought into the school.
Smith told reporters there are no metal detectors in St. Mary’s County high schools, but that metal detectors have been under discussion since the Parkland shootings.
The superintendent praised Deputy Gaskill’s response to the active-shooter incident, but said they faced an uphill battle at the school.
“It looks like the SRO did exactly what the SRO was supposed to do, and we still have a tragic situation,” Smith said.
“We had several first-hand witnesses of the event. These were all children. It is an exceptionally tragic day… If you don’t think this can happen at your school, you are sadly mistaken,” he warned.
“What we had this morning is truly our worst fear… There’s no way around it,” Smith said.
He talked about how his own children are high school students, as were those of many of the other school administration and law enforcement officials who were standing up with him at the press conference.
“This is the beginning of a very long and tragic process that we’re going to have to go through in St. Mary’s County,” the superintendent said.
He said almost 1,400 students had been evacuated to Leonardtown High School, but that only half had been reunified with their parents as of 1 p.m.
“It’s tragic. Our hearts are broken… no parent should ever have to when they send their kids off in the morning to school wonder if they’re going to come home safely or not,” Hogan said.
The governor said there was “one of the most aggressive school safety plans in America” waiting for action in the state capital.
“We’re going to try to get something done in Annapolis ... To me it’s outrageous that we haven’t taken action yet on something as important as school safety,” Hogan said.
Sheriff Cameron said his department was doing everything possible to keep students safe, and had “refined our response to active assailants and along with that, everyone in the agency was trained.”
He said they’d gone through a 12-hour training day, and that every officer now carried a medical kit and had received combat medical training.
Great Mills High School will be closed on Wednesday. The superintendent said he did not know whether the school would reopen this week.
Law enforcement officers from Calvert County, Charles County, the Maryland State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office in its investigation of the tragedy.