As the school day was just beginning at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, an unidentified male student pulled out a gun and opened fire on a female student, hitting another male student in the process.
According to CNS News, an armed school resource officer on the scene immediately responded to the situation and returned fire toward the gunman, ending the shooting almost as quickly as it started.
The gunman was later pronounced dead, and the female student was critically injured. The third student was also being treated for a bullet wound at a nearby hospital.
As reported by WRC-TV, St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron explained that the shooting occurred in a hallway of the school, and as of yet it remained unclear if there was any relationship between the shooter and the two victims.
The school resource officer engaged the gunman in a brief shootout, during which the shooter was taken down while the officer remained unharmed.
“You train to respond to this and you hope that you never ever have to,” Cameron stated. “This is the realization of your worst nightmare — that, in a school, that our children could be attacked. And so as quickly … as that SRO responded and engaged, there’s grievous injuries to two students.”
“Now begins the second phase of this operation,” he added, “and that’s the background and the investigation and the attempt for the school to return to normal.”
Part of that background investigation would include the fact that the school had been aware of a threat of a shooting for nearly a month, according to CNS News.
The Bay Net in southern Maryland reported on Feb. 21 that police had been investigating rumors that the school would be targeted in a shooting attack.
The previous day, parents and students had expressed concern in regard to social media posts warning students at the school that a shooting incident was imminent within the next few days or weeks.
Those concerns had caused Great Mills principal Dr. Jake Heibel to send a brief letter home to parents and guardians of his school’s students in an effort to assuage their fears.
The letter noted that students had been overheard chatting in a hallway about a school shooting, though interviews with the resource officer and other students, as well as a review of surveillance video, were inconclusive.
But then the threats began to circulate on social media that evening, and local law enforcement was brought in to investigate. The threat remained unsubstantiated, but the school asked for and received an increased police presence as the investigation continued.
The principal urged students, parents and teachers to remain vigilant and report anything that raised additional concerns.
It is unclear if that extra police presence was still deployed to the school when the shooting occurred Tuesday morning, but regardless, the armed officer was able to respond immediately when gunfire erupted.
This is why it is so important that an armed individual — whether a school resource officer or other trained staff member — be allowed in schools. This shooting could potentially have been much worse — with a far higher toll of victims — if there hadn’t been somebody properly equipped and prepared to respond who was already on the scene.
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