responded exactly as we train our personnel to respond," said St.
Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron of school resource officer Deputy
First Class Blaine Gaskill. Police said Austin Rollins, 17, shot at two
other students who were injured. Gaskill fired at Rollins, who almost
simultaneously fired back with a handgun, Cameron said. Gaskill was not
injured during the incident, which unfolded in less than a minute.
"While it’s still tragic, he may have saved other people’s lives,” Gov. Larry Hogan said of Gaskill.
said a 16-year-old girl — later identified as Jaelynn Willey — is in
critical condition and a 14-year-old boy is in good condition at local
"It looks like the SRO did exactly what the SRO was
trained to do," St. Mary’s Schools Superintendent James Scott Smith said
at a news conference Tuesday.
The officer’s actions contrast with
those of Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Scot Peterson, assigned to
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people
were shot and killed last month.
The Florida sheriff’s office said
the officer was armed but stayed outside the building, even though the
policy requires deputies to attempt to stop shootings and help victims.
Peterson later resigned but has denied any wrongdoing. His attorney,
Joseph DiRuzzo, previously said in a statementthat Peterson had taken up
a “tactical position” against the wall of building seven, believing
shots might have been fired outside.
The Florida shooting has also
sparked a national conversation about gun violence in schools, with
President Donald Trump calling for more armed adults in schools. Some
school systems have pressed for other measures, such as increasing
security at school facilities. Maryland State Superintendent Karen
Salmon has said more should be done to support and counsel troubled
At the Great Mills news conference Tuesday, Hogan cited
his school safety plan to spend money on school security upgrades; the
ban on bump stocks, which make semi-automatic weapons behave like
automatic weapons; and the so-called red flag rule for seizing weapons
from people whom judges deem dangerous.
"We need more than prayers," Hogan said.
Tuesday’s shooting in Southern Maryland, Carroll County officials
announced that armed officers will now be stationed at some schools,
leaving only Baltimore City without armed officers in public schools
locally. Superintendent Stephen Guthrie previously expressed concerns
about funding, but the Carroll County Commissioners will pay to place
deputies at various schools throughout the county for the rest of the
year until a long-term funding plan is established.
the president of the National Association of School Resource Officers,
said school systems should embrace armed officers to increase safety.
SRO at St. Mary’s County today is a hero. He did what was consistent
with his training. He did what thousands would do,” said Bridges, a
Baltimore County police officer assigned to Franklin High School.
helped start the school resource officer program in Baltimore County
more than 20 years ago. He said more school systems are recognizing the
importance of an officer’s role, which is not only to investigate
threats but to serve as a mentor and educator.
“It is the most
challenging job within law enforcement,” he said, and officers should be
specially trained to deal with adolescents who are still developing.
Schools are “no longer where we can hide a subpar officer,” Bridges said.
has been assigned to Great Mills since the start of the school year,
and has been with the sheriff’s office for almost six years. He’s
completed SWAT training and previously worked as a correctional officer,
Cameron said. Gaskill finished his police training in April 2013, and
received an award for “emergency vehicle operations.”
praise in 2016 for persuading an armed man who confronted him to
surrender, an event caught on a police body camera, Cameron said.
was responding to a home in Great Hills after neighbors reported
fighting. When Gaskill arrived, he was met by a man standing on the
front porch pointing a handgun at him, the sheriff’s office said.
Gaskill yelled at the man multiple times to put down the gun, but he
refused. The man eventually complied and was placed under arrest, the
St. Mary’s began assigning deputies to county high
schools in the 1998-1999 school year, the same year two seniors shot and
killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School.
recent years, the sheriff's office has redefined its response to
active-shooter situations. Instead of relying on multiple officers to
confront a shooter, they are now trained in how to respond as a single
officer, Cameron said. All the officers in the department went through a
full day of training at an elementary school on the new response
tactics, Cameron said. Officers also are outfitted with first-aid kits
and have training in combat medicine. In the Great Mills case, the
deputy, school nurse and others provided first aid to the teens who were
shot, including applying a tourniquet, Cameron said.
Sun Media Group reporter Emily Chappell and South Florida Sun Sentinel
reporters David Fleshler and Stephen Hobbs contributed to this article.