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Deputy praised after firing at Maryland school shooter

Issued: 2018-03-20

Reaction by students and a parent to a shooting at Great Mills High School in St. Mary's County. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)

Reaction by students and a parent to a shooting at Great Mills High School in St. Mary's County. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)

St.Mary's sheriff Timothy K. Cameron identifies the deceased shooter as Austin Wyatt Rollins, 17, while Governor Larry Hogan commences the quick work of the sheriff department. (Baltimore Sun video)

St.Mary's sheriff Timothy K. Cameron identifies the deceased shooter as Austin Wyatt Rollins, 17, while Governor Larry Hogan commences the quick work of the sheriff department. (Baltimore Sun video)

As school systems across the country debate arming staff, state and local officials praised the actions of the school resource officer who fired at a gunman at Great Mills High School.

“He 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.

Police 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 hospitals.

"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 statement that 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 students.

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.

After 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.

Don Bridges, the president of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said school systems should embrace armed officers to increase safety.

Carroll County Public Schools will now have armed law enforcement presence in some schools.

“Effective Wednesday, March 21, 2018, the Security Plan places Carroll County Sheriff’s Deputies at various schools throughout the county,” a news release from the school system reads.

“These uniformed Deputies...

Carroll County Public Schools will now have armed law enforcement presence in some schools.

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