UPDATE: Shooting at Perry Hall High School, Suspect in Custody
The incident took place Monday morning during the first day of the 2012-2013 school year.
BALTIMORE, MD -- UPDATED (4:19 p.m.)—A 15-year-old student shot a 17-year-old classmate at Perry Hall High School on Monday, the first day of the Baltimore County school year, officials said.
A guidance counselor at the school "heroically" stopped the attack by grabbing the shooter, police said.
Baltimore County police said in a news release that the student who had been shot was transported by helicopter to a local hospital.
Police Chief Jim Johnson said that the shooter is in custody and being interviewed at police headquarters.
"I have a freshman who just started school today. She was scared to death to start high school anyway. She said, 'I want to go back to middle school.' She was really emotional this morning. Now she's saying, 'I'm not going back in that school,'" said Carol Erpenstein. She and her daughter Sarah become emotional after they were reunited along Ebenezer Road near Perry Hall Middle School.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said a 15-year-old gunman "randomly picked" a 17-year-old student and shot him in the back. The student is in critical condition after being flown to shock trauma.
A school resource officer was present, and two teachers were able to overpower the gunman, Kamenetz said.
“We live in a very difficult time and I was hopeful that Baltimore county was immune to these types of things, but apparently that is not the case,” Kamenetz told Patch in a phone interview from the school.
Students were released from school early in the afternoon. They were escorted to Perry Hall Square Shopping Center at the corner of Ebenezer and Belair roads, and then to the athletic fields behind Perry Hall Middle School, where they boarded buses. Ebenezer Road had been closed to traffic.
"The teachers know more than the students do," said a teacher who declined to be identified. "We only know what we've been told."
Perry Hall High School will be open Tuesday, Baltimore County Public Schools officials told Patch.
In an afternoon news briefing, Johnson said that reports at this time indicate that the shooter walked into the cafeteria with a concealed weapon and shot the victim. A teacher "heroically stepped in" to stop the attack, at which time the suspect fired another shot into the air. A police officer on the scene then arrested the suspect. Police have recovered the weapon but are not releasing information about the nature of the weapon at this time.
Johnson called the incident a "random act of violence, involving a single shooter acting alone."
Kamenetz had been traveling the county Monday with new county schools Superintendent S. Dallas Dance. The traveling party was alerted to the incident by staff while visiting Woodlawn High School
"My personal thoughts right now are clear; my heart, my thoughts, my prayers are going out with the student who was injured and his family right now," Dance said.
In an email update Monday afternoon, police said, "Several other students suffered minor, non-shooting injuries during the incident."
The school—the largest high school among Baltimore County Public Schools with approximately 2,200 students—is located at 4601 Ebenezer Road.
Teachers were taken back to the school to get their belongings.
"The teachers know more than the students do," said a teacher who
declined to be identified. "We only know what we've been told."
Monday marked the first day for public school systems around the state.
In a statement, Gov. Martin O'Malley said: "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."
Lillian Lowery, Maryland State Schools Superintendent was finishing lunch with first graders at Georgetown East Elementary School in Annapolis when she learned about the shooting from a reporter.
"We send our students to school to be safe and this is a horrible way to start a school year," Lowery said.
Lowery sent her blessings to the person who was injured, and said she takes comfort knowing the counseling services at the school will be adequate for those who need it.
Congressman C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger said: "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."
Baltimore County Councilman David Marks said the incident was handled as well as could be expected.
"I walked here from my house, and everything I've observed has been calm and orderly," Marks said. "The police are doing the best job they can. There are a lot of parents who are justifiably concerned but everyone is taking the most care they can.
"This is clearly an aberration," Marks said. "This is a safe, stable school and nothing like this has ever happened before ... hopefully it won't ever happen again."
Stay with Patch for updates.