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At Perry Hall, shooting is a shocking start to school year

ShootingsPerry Hall High SchoolRobert Wayne Gladden, Jr.

In the aftermath of this morning's shooting of a 17-year-old Perry Hall High School student, shock and surprise were the shared emotions on campus.

Melissa Parzynski, a substitute teacher at Perry Hall High School, was waiting with other parents for her daughter, Caitlin, after the incident.

Parzynski said Caitlin, a freshman, had been "so scared all summer" about the possibility of violence at the school.

"She kept asking, 'Do I have to worry about school shootings?' I said no, Perry Hall is so safe.

"We have all the administration and all that, and the first day of school, look what happened," Parzynski said. "I'm scared to death."

A male student was flown to Shock Trauma on Monday after being shot by a fellow student with a shotgun during the first lunch period of the school year, county police said. Police and EMS units responded at about 10:45 a.m.

The suspect, a 15-year-old male, was apprehended by police shortly after the shooting. Police believe he acted alone, and that he did not target this victim. Several other students suffered minor, non-shooting injuries during the incident.

Police said investigators are still reviewing details of the incident.

Nick Lott, a senior at Perry Hall High, was in a second-floor classroom when an evacuation notice was given. He estimated they were locked down in the classroom for an hour-and-a-half, but he and his classmates found out what happened within minutes.

"Everyone was shocked," he said. "We all thought it was a joke."

Lott said news spread via text messages and social media that someone had a shotgun and had shot another student. Eventually, students were escorted out of the school by officers in SWAT gear. Lott said such officers lined the hallways as well.

Up the street near Perry Hall Middle School, parents were unclear about what had happened. Many tried to reach their children on cell phones in school, but few knew where they would ultimately reunite with the students. Initially, police said students would be brought to the Perry Hall Shopping Center off Ebenezer Road, and before long, parents flooded the lot.

The crowd eventually migrated toward Perry Hall Middle School, which was on lockdown. Parents were eventually sent behind the middle school to wait, but upon realizing their children weren't there, many went back to Ebenezer to wait among the police and school buses.

Carissa Machen was outside Perry Hall Middle waiting for her older son, Kevin. Her husband, also Kevin, had already picked up their younger son, Nathan, who was in the cafeteria at the time of the shooting.

Nathan, a freshman, called her right after the shots were fired, telling her he heard "two really loud noises" in the cafeteria. She urged her son to listen to his teachers and the police, and her husband picked him up a few blocks away from the school.

As she waited for her older son to be brought out from the building, she received a call from her sister in Texas, who had already seen the shooting on the news.

Eventually, students were escorted up Ebenezer Road from the high school to the middle school, where they were instructed to board their buses if parents weren't around to bring them home.

"I grew up a mile from the high school," said Fifth District County Councilman David Marks. "Perry Hall is your quintessential suburb. These things just don't occur."

Marks said it was "striking" how calm the students and staff were during the evacuation, but that the impact is setting in with the community.

"There's a lot of pride in that high school," he said. "People are very stunned right now."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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ShootingsPerry Hall High SchoolRobert Wayne Gladden, Jr.
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