Anxious parents wait for their children along Ebenezer Road after a shooting… (Kim Hairston / Baltimore…)
A Maryland high school's first day of class devolved into chaos Monday after a teenager brought a gun onto campus and opened fire on another student, authorities say.
The victim was in critical condition Monday at a nearby hospital, but the injuries could have been far greater were it not for the swift actions of a guidance counselor and a teacher. Witnesses told the Baltimore Sun that the pair grabbed the gunman in a bear hug and pinned him against a vending machine to keep him from injuring anyone else.
The suspect was taken into custody. Students at Perry Hall High School were evacuated to the fields of a local middle school for safety, according to the Baltimore County Public Schools district.
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The incident received widespread media attention, as the nation continues to be on edge over gun violence in the wake of other recent high-profile shootings -- one at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and another at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
The Baltimore Sun said police sources described the suspect as a 15-year-old. They had not yet identified the injured student, who was reportedly shot in the cafeteria. A local TV news report said the victim was a 17-year-old and that he had been shot in the back. He was taken by helicopter to the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center, local media said.
The Sun reported that police did not believe the victim was targeted -- raising the possibility that more injuries might have occurred if the assailant had not been quickly overpowered.
Students who were interviewed by the newspaper described a chaotic scene in which some students didn't immediately comprehend the source of two loud bangs.
"We thought it was someone slamming a door. Then people started yelling," one student said. Another said the gunfire sounded like a bag of potato chips being opened loudly. A school employee took over the school's public address system and said: "We are in code red. We are in code red." Students scattered, trying to hide wherever they could.
Local TV station WJZ aired video of a young man -- shirtless -- being led to a police car, his hands secured behind his back.
About 2,300 students attend Perry Hall High, and about 200 were in the cafeteria at the time of the shooting, according to local media reports.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley released the following statement:
"Today, on this first day of school for many students in our state, we’ve suffered a senseless act of violence. I’d like to thank the teachers and administrators for their courageous and lifesaving actions. At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the injured student and his family."
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