Reporting Mike Hellgren
PERRY HALL, Md. (WJZ/AP)–A Baltimore County student opens fire on the first day of school at Perry Hall High School, striking a classmate in the back. His victim remains hospitalized. WJZ continues to uncover new information about the troubled background of the 15-year-old accused gunman.
Mike Hellgren has the latest developments.
The accused teenager’s defense is starting to trickle out.
Robert Gladden Jr. remains in custody. New pictures show the teen in the weeks before police say he brought a gun to Perry Hall High School’s cafeteria and shot his classmate, 17-year-old Daniel Borowy, in the back.
There are concerns that warning signs were missed. Fellow students say Gladden went to guidance counselors for help.
On his Facebook page, which is open to the public, he listed Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold as inspirations. They are the teenagers behind the Columbine High School massacre, killing 13 classmates and injuring 24 others in 1999.
Borowy’s father said Thursday he wants parents to be aware of what their children say on social media and young people to tell an adult if anyone makes a sinister statement.
Robert Gladden posted on Facebook before Monday’s shooting at Perry Hall High School: “First day of school, last day of my life.”
In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Milton Borowy asked parents to be friends with their child on social media sites and “wake up to what the social media shows you.” He begged teenagers to act if they’re concerned about what someone says.
“Don’t be shy, don’t be afraid,” Milton Borowy said. “If there’s something suspicious, if you see something, you have to tell a guidance counselor. If it turns out to be a joke, great.”
Doctors at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center say Daniel Borowy suffered a bruised lung and a fractured rib. His chest muscles are damaged and there is a dinner-plate sized hole in his right chest that doctors are working to close.
His parents and doctors say Daniel Borowy, who has Down Syndrome, is strong, determined and cooperative, although he wants to leave the hospital. Rosemary Borowy said her son, who has had a breathing tube for most of the week, gestured by moving two fingers in a walking motion that meant, “Let’s go home!”
When the tube was removed Thursday, Daniel Borowy asked about a cousin and said, “Lady Gaga.” His mother said he wants to marry the musician and keeps a suitcase packed so he is ready to travel to meet her any time. He has a ring for the proposal, and sometimes gets ideas about other gifts, such as his mother’s hairspray and jewelry. When anything is missing, the family checks the suitcase in case he has decided the item would be a good present for Gaga.
The parents are delighted with an online campaign by friends asking Lady Gaga to contact Borowy. They also like a “Pray for Daniel” message circulated widely on Twitter.
Other attention, including people circulating medical details on social media sites and to reporters, is less welcome. Milton Borowy asked everyone to keep personal conversations private and let the family’s pastor at Perry Hall Family Worship Center and a family spokeswoman distribute accurate, authorized information. The church is raising money to help pay Borowy’s medical bills.
Before the shooting, Daniel Borowy was happy about returning to school and his mother stopped by his special education class to check on him. He was wearing a Statue of Liberty crown and holding a torch and having a good time. He was excited because this year he would spend time regularly working in the community as part of a vocational skills program. Borowy is one of about 15 special needs students who study life and vocational skills, as well as reading, math and physical education.
His parents say they don’t know the circumstances of the shooting or whether Daniel Borowy knew Gladden. Milton Borowy said he has tried to protect his wife from stories about what happened so she can focus on their son.
Web Extra: Daniel Borowy’s Family Speaks Out
“Danny was shot. That’s all I really need to know,” Milton Borowy said.
The Borowys declined to talk about the legal case against Gladden, who has been charged as an adult. Gladden’s father and lawyer have said he was bullied at school, and his lawyer said he brought the gun to school to intimidate bullies– not to shoot anyone.
“Obviously, he’s a troubled young man. I hope he gets the help he needs,” Milton Borowy said. That doesn’t mean he forgives Gladden, he said, but the rest is for the legal system to deal with.
The Borowys rushed to the hospital after the shooting and the father got there first. Asked what he saw, he replied, “A breathing boy.” He sighed with relief and called his wife to say, “‘He’s OK.’ She knew what that meant– he was alive.”
Dr. Thomas Scalea, head of the Shock Trauma Center, and thoracic surgeon Dr. James O’Connor operated for about four hours on Borowy’s abdomen and chest. While his parents call the damage horrible, they know their son could have been paralyzed or killed.
“He is a young, healthy kid, but this is still a significant injury,” Scalea said. He said he thinks Borowy will recover and go home, although it’s too soon to say when. Borowy is small for 17 — 4 feet 10 inches tall and 120 pounds — but strong, his mother said.
Daniel Borowy’s Down Syndrome presents no obstacles physically in terms of his treatment, although he had open heart surgery when he was four. Communication is the bigger challenge, Scalea said.
“That’s a little more complicated. He will communicate with his parents better, so this will be a three-way conversation,” with doctors and nurses to understand what he is feeling.
“We’re determined to get that right.”
The Borowys’ three other children, 22-year-old Nicholas, 19-year-old Jonathan and 15-year-old Sara, help their brother and each other any way they can.
Another child, 3-year-old Jessica, drowned in 1991 in her grandparents’ swimming pool. Rosemary Borowy said she prayed to Jessica to reach out to her youngest son after the shooting.
“We believe that Jess helped him. She helped Daniel in her way on Monday, when he needed it the most,” Milton Borowy said.
Gladden is charged as an adult with attempted first-degree murder.
“Ever since Columbine there is this notion of ‘My God. Schools are just not a safe place. Oh good. That doesn’t happen here. It happens somewhere else,’” said Professor Byron Warnken, www.warnkenlaw.com.
Link: Charging Documents
Law professor Byron Warnken says it would be difficult but not impossible to get Gladden’s case moved to juvenile court.
“If the defense council can get it moved to juvenile court, if everything else goes wrong, that’s the huge win of all time,” Warnken said.
Gladden’s lawyer says his client was relentlessly bullied and he brought the weapon to school to intimidate those bullies.
Under Maryland state law, schools must fill out bully report forms. School administrators are unable to say whether any papers were filed dealing with Gladden.
“We are bound by federal law not to be able to release certain parts of student information,” said Baltimore County schools superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance. “No evidence at this point in the investigation can say that bullying was a factor. “
Police say Gladden took the gun from his father’s home and smuggled it into school in his back pack.
“This case will probably over the next year or two change, at least to some extent, the way we do business,” Warnken said.
Warnken says he does not think that Gladden’s reportedly troubled home life will be a big factor in this case.
Gladden has already undergone a medical and mental evaluation.
In other news, the Perry Hall community started a social media campaign to get Borowy’s idol Lady Gaga to visit him in the hospital, and it’s gaining ground.
A former music executive for Gaga’s record label is from Baltimore and says he’s been told something is being sent to the teen.
The Perry Hall High School Alumni Association is collecting funds to help the Borowy family with medical expenses. To donate, click here.
View Slideshow: 1 Student Shot At Perry Hall High School