Montgomery County police released new details about Friday’s shooting at Magruder High School in Derwood, Maryland, as a judge ruled Monday that the teenager accused of shooting and wounding a classmate will be held without bond.
During a news conference Monday afternoon, Montgomery County police Chief Marcus Jones said the shooting happened in a school bathroom, where Steven Alston Jr., 17, and the victim, a 15-year-old boy, agreed to meet amid an ongoing dispute.
“The matter was predetermined to be settled inside of the bathroom at that particular time,” Jones said.
Police said Alston had a 9 mm ghost gun, which is a weapon without a serial number and is untraceable. These guns are also usually purchased in parts, then assembled by the buyer.
Jones said their investigation revealed the two students were not alone; other students were in the restroom, as well. Some of those students tweeted about the shooting and identified the victim and the person who shot him. However, Jones said they never notified teachers or called 911.
That revelation troubled Jones, who said it should prompt conversations between parents and their children.
“There is a place for social media, but then there is a time and a place for when we need to help our fellow man,” Jones said.
After the shooting, the wounded student remained in the bathroom and was only found during a security sweep, which is a typical occurrence at the school between classes.
A school nurse tended to the boy, Jones said, as Magruder High School’s assigned community engagement officer, a Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy, responded from a nearby elementary school.
That officer was dispatched shortly after 1 p.m. and would arrive seven minutes later. It wasn’t until after that officer arrived that it was determined that a shooting occurred, Jones said. The school went into lockdown afterward.
As school officials tried to figure out what happened, Jones said the wounded student was not forthcoming with information, delaying the investigation and finding Alston.
“The victim, in this case, did not identify who shot him, and in fact, I don’t believe that he shared that he had been shot initially,” Jones said.
After the shooting, Jones said it’s believed Alston dismantled the ghost gun he’s accused of using in the shooting and then went into a classroom he was not assigned to be in at the time. He then remained locked down in that classroom with other students and a teacher.
Once police determined Alston was their suspect, Jones said a plan was put into place to get to him without putting anyone inside at risk.
“A strategy in order to best put Mr. Alston into custody, without creating any panic, without creating a moment,” Jones said.
Alston was arrested without incident.
Jones said when they found Alston, one part of the gun was found on the floor underneath his chair, while other parts of the weapon were inside his backpack. Jones said the gun was inoperable when officers found it.
Student held without bond
Alston appeared before Maryland District County Judge Zeburi Williams for a bond hearing Monday afternoon. Alston only stated his name, then listened as prosecutors urged the judge to keep him behind bars.
Alston is charged with attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a dangerous weapon on school property and possession of a firearm by a minor. He’s being prosecuted as an adult.
Prosecutor Carlotta Woodward told the court Monday that once Alston arrived to school, he went into a bathroom and confronted his classmate, raised the weapon and pointed it at the boy’s head. Alston shot the boy in the pelvis when the boy tried to push the gun away, Woodward said.
The wounded teen remains in the hospital in critical condition.
Two hours later, Alston was found in that classroom with the gun, which had been disassembled after the shooting, Woodward said. Police also found a magazine with nine rounds of ammunition.
According to the prosecutor, Alston ordered the ghost gun used online, and a friend helped him assemble the weapon.
The defense lawyer asked the judge to put Alston on 24-hour home confinement, but Williams disagreed, saying the evidence, if proven, would make Alston a danger to society. Alston was ordered to remain behind bars without bond, though the judge allowed for him to be transferred to a juvenile detention facility.
After court, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy was asked if others could be charged, including the friend who allegedly helped Alston build the weapons. McCarthy said while he couldn’t answer that question specifically, he said the investigation is not over and that it is possible that others could be charged.
Speaking of the rise in cases involving ghost guns, McCarthy said this case shines a light on the growing danger of ghost guns in the community. Five such weapons have been recovered at county schools this academic year, according to McCarthy.
“There must be a bright line about the fact that any child who would bring a gun into the school, realize they would not be tolerated and there would be profound consequences to bringing guns into our school, ” McCarthy said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.