A student who shot and critically injured two fellow students at a Maryland high school has died after exchanging gunfire with a campus security officer, the county sheriff said.
- A 14-year-old male student and 16-year-old female student were injured
- Local media reported on rumours of a shooting threat at the school last month
- The shooter used a handgun in the attack
The school day had barely begun when the student, who has not been identified, shot a male student and a female student at Great Mills High School in St Mary’s County before the campus security officer intervened, county Sheriff Timothy Cameron told a news conference.
“Our school resource officer who was stationed inside the school was alerted to the event and the shots being fired,” Mr Cameron said.
“He pursued the shooter, engaged the shooter; during that engagement he fired a round at the shooter. Simultaneously, the shooter fired a round as well.”
A 14-year-old male student, whom the sheriff had earlier said was in critical condition, was in good condition after treatment at MedStar St Mary’s Hospital, according to hospital officials.
A 16-year-old female student, who also had been in critical condition, was stabilised and transferred to another hospital, they said.
The shooter used a handgun in the attack, the sheriff said. He was confirmed dead at 10:41 am (local time) after being taken to a hospital.
Mr Cameron said investigators would determine whether the shooter died of an injury from the school resource officer’s gun or in some other way.
The officer was not harmed, and the public school’s roughly 1,600 students were later escorted off campus by police, classroom by classroom, to reunite with their parents at another high school.
Rumour of a shooting threat last month
The relationship between the students and the shooter’s motivation were unclear, Mr Cameron said.
“You train to respond to this and you hope that you never ever have to,” he said.
“This is the realisation of your worst nightmare.”
Police investigated rumours that someone was threatening to shoot people at the school last month, BayNet, a Maryland news outlet, reported on February 21.
The threats were unsubstantiated, but security was increased at the school, the principal said, according to BayNet.
It was unclear whether those rumours had any connection with Tuesday’s violence.
“I’m not aware of anything, but again we’re going to go back and come through that as well as anybody involved [and] their social media posts,” Mr Cameron said in response to questions about the report.
Great Mills is a town about 110 kilometres south of Washington.
‘Please pray for us’
The violence was the latest in a decades-long series of deadly gun attacks at American schools and colleges.
The shooting occurred amid a re-energised national debate over school shootings in the United States following an attack on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 students and staff.
“Please pray for us. There was a loud sound and everyone started screaming and running,” a young woman named Mollie Davis, who identified herself as a student at Great Mills High School, posted on Twitter.
“You never think it’ll be your school and then it is.”
“Great Mills is a wonderful school and somewhere I am proud to go. Why us?”
Following the shooting, she exchanged messages on Twitter with students from Stoneman Douglas High School, saying their activism had inspired her to spearhead a walkout against gun violence at her school.
A few Parkland students expressed their sympathy and told her to be safe.
The shooting came four days before the March For Our Lives — partly organised by student survivors of the Parkland rampage — takes place in Washington to urge politicians to pass tighter gun control laws.
Local law enforcement officers were joined at the Great Mills High School by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were heading to the school, officials said.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said he was monitoring events at the school.
“Our prayers are with students, school personnel, and first responders,” he said in a statement.