The first day of classes at a Maryland high school exploded into an all-too-familiar scene of terror as a 15-year-old student at the school walked into cafeteria at about 10:45 a.m. and started firing a gun.
The shooter managed to hit just one student, a 17-year-old male, before he was subdued by teachers, authorities said. Police don’t believe the 17-year-old was the intended victim—they indicated he was hit randomly.
The incident occurred at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County, one of the top high schools in the state—it was reportedly just visited a week ago by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who spoke to teachers in preparation for the start of the school year—located near Baltimore off I-95.
Police haven’t released the identity of the 15-year-old shooter or the 17-year-old victim, who is reportedly in serious condition after being transported to a nearby hospital by helicopter. A hospital spokeswoman said that the 17-year-old male student is in critical condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Kelsey Long, a junior at Perry Hall who was in the cafeteria when she heard gunshots, told the Associated Press by Twitter, “I heard a loud popping noise and we thought it was someone popping a bag, but then we heard it again and everyone started screaming and ran out to the front of the school.”
In a crazy summer of gun violence, these stories of gunshots in crowded public places—movie theater, religious service, bar, college campus—have become a weekly occurrence.
Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance credited the quick-thinking teachers with perhaps saving the lives of many Perry Hall students.
“We have some heroic and brave faculty members,” Dance said. “They responded very quickly to minimize damage.”
Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson said the suspect acted alone. He did not answer numerous questions from reporters about a motive.
Authorities evacuated the school and brought students were escorted to a nearby shopping center and middle school.
In a video on WJZ-TV, police could be seen escorting a shirtless African-American male away from the school in handcuffs, though it wasn’t clear if he were the suspect.
Perry Hall is a middle-class community along the Interstate 95 corridor, northeast of Baltimore city. The school is the largest in the county, with 2,200 students.
County Councilman David Marks, who lives next door to the school, said he had received dozens of phone calls and text messages from worried parents and residents.
“This is a very comfortable, very safe community, and it’s an excellent high school,” said Marks, who graduated from Perry Hall. “I think this is an aberration, but clearly one that is horrifying, particularly on the first day of school.”