Sheriff's office top official says Maryland Rite Aid shooter had schizophrenia, criticizes state gun laws

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A top Harford County Sheriff’s Office official, while praising Aberdeen Police for their response to last week’s shooting at a Rite Aid distribution center in Perryman, criticized gun laws that he said allow a person with acute schizophrenia to own a gun.

Maj. William Davis, chief of the agency’s police operations bureau, told Aberdeen’s mayor and City Council members Monday that the suspect, 26-year-old Snochia Moseley, of White Marsh, had been diagnosed with acute schizophrenia, but she answered “no” to questions about whether she had been diagnosed with a mental illness when filling out paperwork to purchase a handgun.

People with schizophrenia can seem like they have lost touch with reality, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and symptoms might include hallucinations, delusions, and thought and movement disorders.

To be precluded from buying a firearm in Maryland, a person must have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility for at least 30 days, but that was not the case with Moseley, according to Davis. The law also states that it must be demonstrated that the buyer presents a danger to themselves or others.

“I think all of us in the room would probably agree that somebody who has been diagnosed with acute schizophrenia should not be allowed to possess or purchase a weapon,” Davis said.

Davis had been invited to address city leaders during Monday’s council meeting about the shooting incident Thursday that left four people dead, including the shooter, who took her own life, and injured three others. The tragedy, which occurred in the Enterprise Business Park just south of the City of Aberdeen, is the second workplace shooting in Harford County in less than a year.

Three people died and two others were injured in a shooting Oct. 18, 2017, at Advanced Granite Solutions in Edgewood.

Davis said “it didn’t seem like it was real” when he heard the first reports of a shooting at the Rite Aid facility, but it became real as police received more information — Aberdeen Police Department officers were the first to respond, followed by Sheriff’s Office deputies and Maryland State Police troopers, according to Davis.

“When you get that kind of call you get a weird feeling in your stomach and then the adrenaline kicks in and you say, ‘You’ve got to go,’” Davis said.

The incident drew local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as multiple firefighters and EMS personnel. Davis said police had to hold back some of the EMS personnel, as many were eager to go into the facility alongside police to get anyone injured out.

The Sheriff’s Office has worked with local fire and EMS companies to develop a Rescue Task Force, made up of police and EMS personnel who move together at the scene to get to “warm zones” to tend to injured victims before the scene is secured. Warm zones are areas in between those that are cold, or fully secured, and hot, where the shooter could still be active.

Davis said it would have taken about 45 minutes to get medical help to injured victims in the Rite Aid shooting, if police had waited until the scene was completely secure.

Davis praised the “amazing response” to the shooting.

The Rescue Task Force had been rolled out shortly before the Edgewood shooting last fall; personnel went in during that incident and were able to save the two people who were injured, according to Harford fire and EMS officials.

“We hope and we believe [the Rescue Task Force is] going to save lives, and hopefully — God forbid — you never have to use it again,” Davis said.

Davis did not use Moseley’s name when addressing city leaders Monday, saying no one from the Sheriff’s Office has used the suspected shooter’s name other than to initially identify her. Davis cited his agency’s “no notoriety” policy, to focus the public’s attention on the victims and their families rather than give any fame or attention to a person suspected to be a mass shooter.

“We just hope that everybody’s thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the incident,” he said.

Mayor Patrick McGrady praised the quick city police response to the shooting. He noted the industrial park is not within the city limits, but that the Aberdeen Police Department is the closest police agency.

“I remain impressed with the professionalism of our police department and the willingness to run into a dangerous situation without knowing if the shooter is in fact down,” McGrady said.

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