WASHINGTON – A 17-year-old shooter has died and two other students were wounded in a shooting at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Tuesday morning.
St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron said Tuesday that Austin Wyatt Rollins, a student at the school, fired a Glock semiautomatic handgun at a girl in a hallway at about 7:45 a.m., at the beginning of the school day. The girl and another student, a boy, were wounded.
The school resource officer, who was alerted to the shooting by students and staff, then engaged the shooter in about a minute, Cameron said; the officer and Rollins each fired a shot “almost simultaneously.” He was pronounced dead at about 10:40 a.m., Cameron said.
It’s not known whether Rollins was killed by the resource officer’s gun, or whether he took his own life, Cameron said.
MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital said in a statement that a 14-year-old boy was in good condition with a gunshot wound to the thigh, and that they stabilized a 16-year-old girl and transferred her to UM Prince George’s Hospital Center. Cameron said she was in critical condition with life-threatening injuries.
Cameron said they were investigating Rollins’ devices and social media and are at his home, and said that there were indications of a “prior relationship” between the shooter and the girl. He added that authorities have surveillance video, but that he hasn’t seen it yet.
Still, as to the ultimate motive or Rollins’ ultimate plan, Cameron said, “We don’t know, and we may never know.”
Superintendent James Scott Smith said the school would be closed Wednesday; he wouldn’t say for sure when it would reopen. He wouldn’t discuss whether Rollins had a disciplinary history, and said there are no metal detectors at the county’s schools.
Smith called the events “truly our worst fear,” and added that anyone who thinks it can’t happen at their school is “sadly mistaken.”
“Our hearts are broken,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan at an afternoon news conference. “… Our thoughts and prayers are always with the victims and their families,” Hogan said, but he added, “we need more than prayers.”
He had scathing criticism for the state legislature, saying that an emergency bill written after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting was “one of the most aggressive school safety plans in America … and the legislature has failed to take action.”
With three weeks left in the session, Hogan said, “It’s outrageous that we haven’t taken action yet on something as important as school safety.”
He added, “I wish I could tell you that it’s not going to happen again.”
On Monday, Maryland’s Senate voted to pass a bill that would ban bump stocks. The bill is similar to one passed by the House last week; Hogan supports it.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller issued a statement after the shooting: “While we grieve, we must not lose focus on the need for increased school safety.”
Referencing Hogan’s school safety legislation filed two weeks ago, Miller said, “In addition to a bill introduced by the governor, we have four emergency measures championed by Senator Waugh.” Maryland Sen. Stephen Waugh, a Republican, represents Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.
Hogan’s initiatives put aside $125 million in capital improvements for schools for such things as reinforced doors and windows, and metal detectors at entrances. The governor has also called for dedicating another $50 million in grant money for school resource officers and additional counseling at schools.
Hogan canceled his scheduled appearance on WTOP Tuesday morning.
‘A tough guy’
Cameron identified the resource officer as Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill.
Gaskill is a SWAT team member, and Hogan described him as “a tough guy,” but Cameron said, “These are children, and I’m sure that weighs on his mind.”
Cameron said every school resource officer has had at least 12 hours of training in dealing with shooting situations, including team and individual response, as well as “combat medical training.”
Students were evacuated from the school and bused to Leonardtown High School, where they were reunited with their parents in a process that took until about mid-afternoon. Some students who saw the shooting were kept at Great Mills to be interviewed by investigators.
The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting with the investigation.
‘I thought it was a drill’
Michael Forn, a 10th-grader at Great Mills High School, said, “I thought it was a drill, but it wasn’t. It was an actual, real, active shooter at the school.”
He said his classmate was shot. “He didn’t know what was happening,” Forn said. “He just sat there frozen; he was in shock.”
Forn said he couldn’t believe it was happening. “They told us to run out the school, so we ran out the school.”
“I felt kind of scared,” he added. “It was good I didn’t get hurt.”
Outside Leonardtown High School, Sherita Gray said news of the shooting brought her husband to tears. Moments later, she got the call from her son. “Once I heard from him, I was OK,” she said.
Calling Great Mills a “tight-knit community,” Cameron said, “The notion of ‘It can’t happen here’ is no longer a notion.”
Great Mills High School has about 1,600 students.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan and Melissa Howard contributed to this report.
Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."