Students, parents and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz comment after Thursday's lockdown at Loch Raven High School.
A 14-year-old Loch Raven High School student was arrested Thursday after Baltimore County police said he brought a pellet gun to school.
The incident, which came a day after a school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead, sent Loch Raven students hiding in their classrooms and their parents racing to the school for answers. The school was placed on lockdown as police searched the building.
No one was injured.
The student, whose name has not been released, had shown the pellet gun to another student, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz told reporters gathered near the school.
Police said they later found the gun at the school.
Several students walked up to Baltimore school police officer Tiffany Wiggins Thursday morning and asked her, “What are we going to do if there’s a school shooting here?” The children’s questions come a day after a 19-year-old expelled student went on a shooting rampage at his former high school,
The student was charged as a juvenile with disturbing activities at school and having a dangerous weapon on school property, Baltimore County police said Friday.
A school resource officer received a tip Thursday morning that a student was concealing a gun in a backpack, county police said. The officer then lost sight of the student and the school was placed on lockdown.
Keith Tillman was in U.S. history class when he saw another student sprint down the hallway, tailed closely by a school police officer.
“They were calling his name, like, 'Stop! Stop!'” the 18-year-old senior said. “We were like, 'What's going on?' We didn't know what was happening.”
About three to five minutes later, the school went into lockdown for nearly an hour until the student was arrested.
On the fourth floor, Jordan Staten and other students in a college algebra class took cover behind a teacher's desk and watched police descend on the school via a live feed from a news helicopter overhead.
“We were really scared,” said Staten, 18, of Parkville. “It was really awkward. We didn't really know what to do, just [had to] sit there and wait. Whenever we heard a small noise or something, we'd freak out.”
Many parents expressed anger that they only heard about the incident from their children, and received no information during the lockdown from school officials.
Cierra Brown had been doing laundry at her home in Parkville when her daughter texted her from a friend's phone.
“She said that the school was on lockdown, somebody came to school with a gun — and she said, 'I love you,' as if that was the last time we were going to talk,” Brown said.
Brown stayed in constant contact with her daughter to make sure she was OK and ask her what was happening. She told her to try to find a closet or somewhere else to hide.
“I feel like I should have gotten a phone call from the school,” Brown said. “Somebody should have called us and let us know immediately. As soon as they knew something was wrong, I feel like they should have told the parents that our students were in danger.”
Mychael Dickerson, chief of staff to schools Superintendent Verletta White, said officials sent two messages to parents — one at the beginning of the lockdown and one when it was lifted. A third message was planned for Thursday evening to let parents know counselors would be available at the school Friday, he said.
Sinthya Bonilla, of Parkville, was cleaning her house when she checked her phone and saw two missed calls and a flurry of text messages from her daughter, Alejandra, a junior at the school.
"Mommy, Mommy, somebody has a gun," her daughter told her when she hurriedly called her back.
Bonilla was among a crowd of parents who rushed to the school upon hearing the news. Short of breath and shaking, she gazed down the hill at the school as she recalled her harrowing afternoon.
She also said she'd received no phone call or email about the incident from the school as of Thursday afternoon.
Ashley Mullaney, whose has an 11th-grader at the school, assumed the worst when she heard about the lockdown. Wednesday's mass shooting at a school in Florida was on her mind as she ran two red lights on her way to Loch Raven High in her haste to get to her son, she said.
“What if I get a phone call that that's my son bleeding out on the floor, and I send my last words to him?” she said, visibly upset. “I'm sure other parents did in Florida yesterday. It's disgusting that we have to live as parents like that.”
Baltimore County added $3.7 million in security in school security improvements, including a surveillance camera system with footage that can be viewed in real time by county police as well as school police. The investment followed an August 2012 shooting at Perry Hall High School that injured a 17-year-old special needs student.
“We’ve invested a significant amount of money to bolster the security of our schools in terms,” Kamenetz said Thursday.
The county executive praised the school system and police department's handling of the situation.
“All of our nerves are on edge here,” he said. “The first responsibility is to make sure the students are safe and that they apprehend the boy that had the replica weapon. Then we can notify the parents once everything has been taken care of. I think that was done.”