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Gun used in Maryland high school shooting was legally owned by shooter's father, sheriff says

The handgun used in Tuesday’s shooting at Great Mills High School in Southern Maryland was legally owned by the shooter’s father, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.

Austin Wyatt Rollins, 17, brought a Glock 9-millimeter pistol to the school and opened fire in a hallway at about 7:50 a.m., injuring a 16-year-old girl and striking a 14-year-old boy in the leg, according to the sheriff’s office. A school resource officer quickly responded and fired at Rollins. Rollins fired his gun almost simultaneously.

Rollins died hours later at a hospital. The school resource officer, Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill, was not injured.

The 16-year-old victim of Tuesday’s shooting — identified by family as Jaelynn Willey — remained in critical condition Wednesday morning at the University of Maryland Prince George’s Medical Center, according to a hospital spokesman. She was “gravely injured,” according to the sheriff’s office.

The 14-year-old boy — identified as Desmond Barnes — was discharged from MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital on Wednesday, hospital officials confirmed. He was shot in the leg.

The sheriff’s office did not offer further information about the gun, including when and where it was purchased or how Rollins gained access to it.

The sheriff’s office also said Wednesday afternoon that the shooting was not a random act. There’s evidence that Rollins and Willey had “a prior relationship which recently ended,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Investigators have not yet found any threatening posts or statements made by Rollins prior to the shooting.

No one was at Rollins’ home, a gray two-story house in a suburban development in Lexington Park, on Wednesday. His Facebook page had been turned into a memorial page.

Jen Pauliukonis, president of the group Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, said the case highlights the issue of child access to firearms. She pointed to a 2004 report from the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education that found that 68 percent of school shooters used a gun from their own home or a relative’s home.

“Adolescence is a time when young people struggle with many different issues,” such as anger and depression, she said. “And we have to make sure that as parents, we are protecting our adolescents when they are going through these times of crisis so that they don’t have access to firearms that will compound these issues and create a violent end.”

Maryland law prohibits a person from leaving a loaded firearm somewhere that the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised child under age 16 could gain access to it. Violators face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $1,000.

In the Great Mills shooting, however, Rollins was 17.

Pauliukonis said the state law has a “gap” when it comes to older teens.

“I think it’s something that Maryland leaders need to evaluate,” she said.

Great Mills High School will remain closed for the rest of the week.

All schools in St. Mary’s County were closed Wednesday because of a snowstorm. Schools will be closed next week for spring break, so Great Mills High is expected to reopen April 2.

“Now more than ever we need to stand together as a school community to love, cherish, and support one another,” school Principal Jake Heibel said in a statement on the school’s website. “We have and we will continue to stay strong, stay together, and find a way to get through this.”

Heibel did not respond to an interview request on Wednesday.

The school system is offering counseling to Great Mills students.

The investigation into the shooting continues. Sheriff Tim Cameron said Tuesday that the investigation would include searching a car and a home, interviewing witnesses, reviewing security camera footage and combing through social media. Investigators also were working to determine which bullets struck which individuals.

The FBI is assisting with the investigation, spokesman Dave Fitz said. The FBI set up a website to collect tips and video footage of the incident at fbi.gov/greatmills.

Baltimore Sun reporters Talia Richman and Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.

pwood@baltsun.com

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