GREAT MILLS, Md. – The school shooting was over in seconds and a Maryland school resource officer was hailed a hero. But it could have dragged on longer and proven deadlier were it not for the rapid response of the SRO, reported CBS Denver.
When a 17-year-old gunman walked into Maryland’s Great Mills High School on Tuesday, the rapid response of the school’s single resource officer, Blaine Gaskill, was instrumental in bringing the incident to a quick end.
Gaskill’s actions hailed him as a hero. Moreover, they are an example of exactly what a resource officer is supposed to do in such a circumstance, particularly against the backdrop of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. However, there are many differences, so it is inequitable to compare the two.
“He responded exactly how we train our personnel to respond,” St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron told reporters.
As soon as the gunfire began, Gaskill rushed to the scene. He fired a round at the shooter, who also fired a round at the same time, Cameron said.
However, it’s not yet clear whether the shooter, Austin Wyatt Rollins, was taken out by the officer’s round or killed himself.
“DFC [Deputy First Class] Gaskill fired at the shooter … almost simultaneously as the shooter fired,” Cameron said. “This is something we train, practice and in reality, hope would never come to fruition. This is our worst nightmare.”
Closed in Quick
Gov. Larry Hogan called Gaskill “a very capable school resource officer who also happened to be a SWAT team member.”
“This is a tough guy who apparently closed in very quickly and took the right kind of action,” he said. “And while I think it’s still tragic, he may have saved other people’s lives.”
The incident began in a school hallway at 7:55 a.m., just before classes started. Authorities say Austin, armed with a handgun, shot a female student, with whom he had a prior relationship, and another male student.
Gaskill responded to the scene in less than a minute, the sheriff said.
Cameron said the entire incident took less than a minute, possibly seconds.
The 16-year-old female student, identified as Jaelynn Willey, is in critical condition, and the 14-year-old unidentified male student who was shot in the leg has been stabilized.
Gaskill was not injured in the encounter.
“He’s doing well and we’re going to do everything to support and promote him and his well-being,” Cameron said.
‘Good Guy With a Gun’
Gaskill’s actions were praised, rightly, across social media. Furthermore, people demanding that schools harden their targets held him up as an example of what happens when a “good guy with a gun” is on scene and is willing to engage the homicidal suspect.
Since bad guys will always find a way to circumvent whatever gun laws are in place, people who are equipped to confront criminal shooters need to be present. This is a principle embraced by the NRA among others.
“To stop a bad guy with a gun,” as NRA head Wayne Lapierre said, “it takes a good guy with a gun.”
“This [Great Mills High School] armed school resource officer, you’re not hearing anyone in #MSM talk about it because it disrupts their narrative,” NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch said in one of several tweets Tuesday. (MSM is short for mainstream media.)
“We might not have had to walk over the bodies of our classmates, once lovely and wonderful people, as we were led away from murderous tragedy.”
Speaking to reporters, Dr. James Scott Smith, the superintendent of St. Mary’s County’s public schools, put the senselessness of it all in perspective.
“It looks as though the SRO [school resource officer] did exactly what the SRO is trained to do, and yet we still have a tragic loss of life,” he said. “We still have somebody in critical condition. And we have students at the school and staff at the school impacted.”
Yet it is a far different scene then it could have been without someone present, and willing to confront the suspect.
‘Not a Random Act of Violence’
Rollins used his father’s legally-owned handgun during the crime, according to thestar.com.
“All indications suggest the shooting was not a random act of violence,” police said in a statement.
The 14-year-old boy who was shot in the thigh was released Wednesday from a hospital, while Willey was still fighting for her life at the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center, according to thestar.com.
Hospital spokesperson Michael Schwartzberg said in an email Wednesday night that she remained in critical condition.
It’s Part of the Job
Gaskill was praised a couple of years ago for his handling of a confrontation with an armed suspect.
A Maryland man was charged in 2016 after he was accused of confronting Gaskill with a gun at an apartment in an incident captured on body camera video. Gaskill can be heard in the video giving several commands to drop the gun before the man eventually complies.
The Enterprise, a local newspaper, reports Cameron said at the time that Gaskill had “used exemplary judgment.”
Searching for Explanations
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.