By MATTHEW BARAKAT and BRIAN WITTE
GREAT MILLS, Md. (AP) – A teenage boy wounded in the latest school shooting was released Wednesday from a hospital, while a 16-year-old classmate was still fighting for her life in critical condition.
The shooter, a 17-year-old student identified as Austin Rollins, was killed Tuesday morning at Great Mills High School in a coastal swath of southern Maryland where many families have military ties. The town in St. Mary’s County, with a population of about 110,000, is about 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Washington, D.C.
A day after the eruption of gun violence in one of the sleepy community’s schools, the few residents who ventured out amid a snowstorm blanketing the East Coast praised a school resource officer who responded inside of 60 seconds and fired off a shot at the attacker.
“He did a very, very good job,” said Sharon Eglinton, manager of a cafe in nearby Leonardtown.
It was not yet clear whether Rollins took his own life or was killed by the officer’s bullet, nor was it clear how the 14-year-old boy was wounded. But St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron credited Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill with preventing any more loss of life.
Cameron said Gaskill, a six-year veteran with SWAT team training, responded within a minute and fired his weapon simultaneously with a final shot fired by Rollins. The officer was unharmed.
Authorities didn’t release a motive, but said they believe the girl and Rollins previously had some type of relationship. The girl’s family has identified her as Jaelynn Willey, one of nine siblings.
A spokeswoman for the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center said Wednesday that the 16-year-old girl remained in critical condition.
Meanwhile, federal agents were completing an urgent trace request by the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office for the history of a semi-automatic Glock handgun that law enforcement says Rollins used at his southern Maryland high school. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tries to answer such requests within 24 hours.
“The purpose of a trace is to find out who the initial purchaser of a firearm is,” said Amanda Hils, a spokeswoman for the ATF’s Baltimore field division.
However he got it, it appears Rollins possessed the gun illegally. In Maryland, a person must be 21 to possess a handgun, unless carrying one is required for employment.
People who knew Rollins were trying to make some kind of sense of Tuesday’s hometown horror.
“Never in a million years could I have imagined he would do something like this. I was in the car when I heard it was him. I pulled over and almost puked,” said Adlai Traver, 18, who attended Great Mills in his freshman and sophomore years and knew all three kids involved in the shooting. He recalled playing cards with Rollins in the back of the school’s band room.
Attempts to reach his family were unsuccessful.