A student was shot at Magruder High School on Friday, sending the Montgomery County school into lockdown as SWAT officers arrived and terrified parents showed up to try to get their children.
The victim, who was sent to the hospital in serious condition, was found in a bathroom and was reported to be stable and out of surgery as of Friday evening.
“This was contained to these two guys,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones. “We’re still trying to get to the bottom of what preceded this.”
Students had huddled in locked classrooms for more than three hours.
“We are now just sitting and trying to be calm,” Bridgit Kalota, 17, said in a direct Twitter message during the ordeal, adding, “I know there are swat teams, police, etc outside. I’ve seen images, it’s pretty scary to just be sitting in class when everything is happening all around me.”
Outside the school, the parent of a sophomore who said she raced to the scene to find out what was happening said she had been in contact with her child.
“This is something you don’t need to deal with. Schools should be a safe place,” said the woman, who walked away without giving her name.
A school security officer first became aware of the incident shortly before 1 p.m. and 911 was called. The school went into full lockdown at 1:05 p.m., Jones said.
Soon into the incident, Jones said, “We really slowed down, methodically working with the [school’s] staff in order to be able to work through tips and where that student may be located. We believed at the time that the student was not a danger to other students ... We did not believe that there was an ongoing threat at that very moment. So it took us probably a couple of hours before we were able to put everything together, locate the student and place that student into custody.”
The student was apprehended in the school around 3 p.m. and a gun was found near him, Jones said.
It was not clear what charges the student who was detained will face.
Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight said overall county schools are safe but admonished the epidemic of gun violence locally and nationwide.
“I also want to emphasize that this is not a problem that schools can solve alone. Guns and gun violence are a scourge in our in our society,” McKnight said. “And it’s a problem that we all must own and react to swiftly, and with much thought behind it.”
Kalota, the student, said she was in 7th period taking a quiz when the principal came on the intercom and “sounded sort of panicked.”
“He said we were going into lockdown. I knew automatically it wasn’t a drill because of his demeanor, when it’s a drill he usually is very calm,” Kalota said in a series of direct Twitter messages. “When I heard lockdown I instantly thought a school shooting. My class didn’t hear any gunshots though.”
Late in the afternoon, she wrote: “Most of us feel just really exhausted and homesick.”
Marina Joya, of Gaithersburg, was one of many parents who drove to the school and pulled over on the side of a nearby road to await news after her 15-year-old daughter texted her saying someone had been shot.
“She said she’s okay and I’m lockdown in a class,” Joya said.
Montgomery County police cars blocked roads around the school. A helicopter hovered overhead. News crews set up a few hundred feet from the school, whose windows looked dark and whose parking lot was half full.
In a letter Friday to Magruder High School families, Principal Leroy Evans said students were to be dismissed around 5 p.m.
Evans said in the letter that “in an effort to share information as quickly as possible,” a message sent at the beginning of the lockdown indicated there was no threat to student or staff safety.
“We regret using that language as the police continued to actively conduct an investigation inside the school,” the letter continued. “Our following message clarified that the police continued to be involved in resolving the situation and confirming the school’s safety.”
Cynthia Simonson, who has two students at the school, which is located about a mile from her Derwood home, said her children were in their sixth-period classes when the school was locked down. They told her of huddling with other students, then “chilling” as the danger seemed to pass and the lockdown continued. Her ninth grade son said his class was watching the movie “Encanto,” as they waited to be released.
Simonson’s children texted that they were safe almost immediately, she said.
“That allows you to exhale,” she said, “but it doesn’t relieve the weight of another tragedy happening in yet another American high school.”
Parent Kimberly Glassman, 43, dropped what she was doing at work and drove to the school after her 15-year-old son texted her from music class saying the school had gone into lockdown and asking her what she knew.
Glassman, an education attorney, said she checked in by text every few minutes with her son who, with classmates, has been monitoring Instagram and Twitter.
“I think our kids are going through a lot. They’ve gone through a lot in the past year and a half, and it’s compounding,” she said. “I worry about their mental health and well-being. This is just another thing being piled on.”
The shooting will likely fuel ongoing debate over the county’s recent removal of specialized police officers from campuses.
Lee Holland, a spokesman for the county’s police union, has termed the move a failed social experiment. On Friday he said that the removal of the officers — known as School Recourse Officers, or SROs — was made with “no plan to secure our schools.”
“Without thoughtful planning, which would include input from school staff, parents, students, law enforcement, etc., then we will continue to see the unchecked violence and disruptive behavior within our public schools,” Holland said.
Jones praised the staff at the school for its rapid response and communication with the police. “The training that have with partnered with them led to a peaceful resolution,” Jones said.
Donna St. George contributed to this report.