Reporting Mike Hellgren
PERRY HALL, Md. (WJZ) – Gunfire rocked Perry Hall High School on the first day of class. Police say a 15-year-old student started shooting in the cafeteria Monday morning. The suspect is in custody and the victim is in critical condition.
Mike Hellgren has the breaking details.
Police say a 17-year-old male student was shot and one suspect, a 15-year-old student, is in custody. It is not known whether he will be tried as an adult or as a juvenile. Police say the student brought the shotgun into school.
Police believe the shooter acted alone and did not target his victim. He is a student at Perry Hall High.
A posting on the suspected shooter’s personal Facebook page said, “First day of school, last day of my life. [expletive] the world.”
He is in custody and has not been charged.
The injured student was flown by Medevac to Shock Trauma. He is in critical condition. A Shock Trauma official said that status is not likely to change overnight.
“First, we heard a gunshot and everyone thought it was a chip bag popping or a water bottle. Then there was a second one and all of a sudden, I see everyone from behind me get up and start running away,” said a student.
For hours, students trickled out of the classrooms and had emotional reunions with their families.
Police have not commented on a possible motive. It’s not known how the suspect got the weapon. Several students have described the gun as a shotgun.
Police and county authorities don’t want to speculate on a motive or anything that may have led up to the shooting.
School officials say that the school will reopen Tuesday and that there will be enhanced security.
“I want to offer reassurance to everyone that the police department has the situation well under control,” said Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County Executive. “It was a random act of shooting….It’s a difficult world we live in today. I kind of hoped Baltimore County would be immune, from this type of activity, but apparently we are not.”
The shooting reportedly happened in the school cafeteria around 10:45 a.m. Police say the student removed from concealment a weapon he brought into the school. Police and students have also told Eyewitness News teachers tackled the suspect as he fired the first shot.
“As the individual began to pull back from that shooting several inches, an instructor grabbed him, grappled with him and a second shot was discharged,” said Chief Jim Johnson, Baltimore County Police.
A school resource officer was able to quickly subdue the teen. Police found the weapon he used but would not say what it was.
“I saw the kid shooting then the teacher tackled him and the first row started running, then the second run, then everyone was running,” said Gerald Roman, 11th grader.
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One student told WJZ’s Hellgren it was his first day of public school and he saw the shooting. He says there was a lot of blood and saw the student shot in the back. There are estimates there were about 200 students in the cafeteria at the time of the shooting.
Others told WJZ they heard a scuffle before the shooting. After the shooting, the school was put on lockdown for several hours.
“It sounded like a fight against the locker with all the banging. I heard screaming and the teachers told everybody to stay calm… it was crazy,” said Justin Spencer, tenth-grader. “When all the teachers started running to the classrooms and locking the doors, and then on the speaker we heard the teachers saying ‘Lockdown. Lockdown. This is not a drill. We need everyone to stay in the classrooms.’”
“I heard two large bangs and I saw people running and it was chaos and everybody ran outside, and the principal told us to stay in the grass area and away from the cafeteria,” said a student witness.
Governor Martin O’Malley released the following statement:
“Today, on this first day of school for many students in our State, we’ve suffered a senseless act of violence. I’d like to thank the teachers and administrators for their courageous and life-saving actions. At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the injured student and his family.
“I’ve spoken with County Executive Kamenetz, and we will continue to support all of our local partners in Baltimore County. It takes all of us working together to make our schools safer for our children.”
Parents told WJZ they were getting calls and texts from their children when they were in lockdown. Students were dismissed classroom by classroom.
“This is the first time it’s happened at Perry Hall. We don’t have this happen out here. It happened during lunch, but not my child’s lunch. I’m just glad he’s OK,” said a parent.
“It’s a mother’s worst nightmare,” said one mother, whose son had not been released from Spanish class. “It’s horrifying. I got here and talked to parents. Every story is not the right story. You get different information. Until I got in touch with him, he texted me back and said ‘Mom, I’m OK. Don’t worry.’ I said ‘OK.’ I just want to get him out of the building and home with me, give him a big hug,” said Carol Hogenburgen, parent.
“For something like this to happen it’s just tragic for everyone. It was wonderful to be able to see him walking up the street and give him a hug. I’m just thankful he’s OK,” said mother Doris of her son Tyler.
Students left the school in an orderly manner. They were originally being evacuated to Perry Hall Shopping Center across the street from the school at the corner of Ebenezer Road and Belair Road. But later, students were evacuated to the fields behind Perry Hall Middle School. Bus riding students were dismissed from that location.
The Baltimore County Police Department is providing updates about the shooting at Perry Hall High School. You can follow them on Twitter at BACOemergency.
Spiritual workers and counselors are on scene helping students and parents.
Monday was the first day of school in Perry Hall. About 2,300 students attend the school. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited the school last week.
This is Baltimore County Schools’ Superintendent Dallas Dance’s first day in his new job. He assured parents his number one priority was student safety.
“First of all our thoughts and our prayers are with the student who was injured and his family. We pray for a speedy recovery. Second thing, we want to reassure our parents that student safety is our paramount priority. We will do everything in our rights and our way to make sure all of our students are safe. And last but not least I do want to make sure that the word gets out that we have some heroic and brave faculty members at Perry Hall High School. As the chief indicated, some faculty members actually responded quickly to get this individual to minimize damage. We really want to congratulate them and to let the public know the crisis plan in place at Perry Hall High School was actually in fact followed today,” said Dance.
Dance also issued a statement: “What happened earlier today is a shock and a tragedy. Speaking on behalf of the entire BCPS community, our thoughts and prayers are with the victim and his family. This school year, we expect to educate more than 106,000 students in our schools. The safety of students and staff is our paramount concern and priority. Schools must be safe to be conducive for teaching and learning. Our schools have emergency plans in place that are updated annually. Perry Hall High School followed its plan and cooperated with police. As challenging as today was, I am extremely proud of Principal George Roberts and the school community. Students responded maturely, and the faculty, through its quick intervention, saved lives and captured the assailant. We will work together to make this the best school year for Team BCPS.”
“The first day of school is supposed to be a day of reunion after a fun summer and anticipation for the year ahead. No parent should have to worry about the safety of their child at school. I appreciate the rapid response to the situation by the staff and administrators at Perry Hall High School as well as Baltimore County’s law enforcement and first responders, who quickly evacuated the victim and apprehended the suspect. My thoughts and prayers are with the students and staff of Perry Hall High School, as well as their families,” Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said in a statement.
“My thoughts are with the Perry Hall High School community — students, families and faculty — in this difficult time. Gun violence has no place anywhere, least of all in our nation’s schools. I’d like to thank the local educators and law enforcement personnel who took action to help prevent additional students from getting hurt. I recently had the chance to visit with Principal George Roberts and the teachers at Perry Hall. I know that both he and Superintendent Dance are committed to keeping students safe and learning, and we stand ready to support them in that work,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a statement.
Stay with WJZ.COM for the latest on this developing story.