Montgomery County police at Col. Zadok Magruder High School on Friday Credit: File photo

This story was updated at 3:40 p.m. Jan. 22, 2022, to include more details about ghost guns and at 5:20 p.m. with other information.

A “ghost gun” was found at Col. Zadok Magruder High School after one student shot another student on Friday, police said.

Montgomery County police said Saturday that a 15-year-old boy was shot. The boy was in critical condition at a local hospital on Saturday, after having surgery on Friday, according to police.

School security personnel found the boy in a student bathroom on Friday afternoon with a gunshot wound.

Elected officials and school administrators have credited Megan Wilson, a school health nurse at Magruder, for rendering quick aid to the 15-year-old who was shot, potentially saving his life.

On Saturday, Principal Leroy Evans also thanked Ken Nelson, the head of security at the school,  in a community meeting.

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Nelson found the boy in the restroom while doing a regular sweep of restrooms and other areas inside the school.

“In my essence, he is responsible for saving this young man’s life or at least putting him in a position where he … survived,” Evans said.

Nelson said Saturday he has been at the school for roughly five months and thanked colleagues Myrna Clegg, Marge Lincoln, Bobby Verene and Darren Gregory for also helping to handle the incident.

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Police said in a press release that there was no indication that the alleged shooter was targeting anyone else in the school.

The 17-year-old, an 11th-grader, was charged with attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony/violent crime, possession of a dangerous weapon on school property, and possession of a firearm by a minor.

He was charged as an adult and is being held without bond. Bethesda Beat generally does not identify minors who are charged with a crime.

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The school went into full lockdown at 1:05 p.m. on Friday. Police said the 17-year-old was found in a classroom and taken into custody shortly after 3 p.m.

Police said they found what is described as a “ghost gun,” which refers to a weapon that’s usually privately made and lacks a commercial serial number.

After school security found the 15-year-old boy, Montgomery County police responded. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, a SWAT team and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm helped secure and search the building.

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There was no further information about the extent of the 15-year-old’s injuries, the circumstances that led to the shooting or specifically where in the school it happened.

Montgomery County Public Schools staff members and administrators held a community meeting Saturday in which they discussed the shooting, protocols and other details.

Sarah Sirgo, the director of learning, achievement, and administration for MCPS, said during the meeting that incidents like Friday’s shooting are very fluid and change rapidly. That is why parents got snippets of information throughout the day, she added.

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Montgomery County Police Department Chief Marcus Jones said the original call that first responders got was that someone was injured. But as more information came in, a deputy sheriff — the community engagement officer for the school — responded to the school, along with Gaithersburg police officers.

Jones said authorities still need to interview the victim and other witnesses as part of the investigation.

Reaction and response

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School administrators and Magruder parents said Friday’s shooting has caused a need to re-examine school security issues.

Ed Clarke, the director of school safety and security for MCPS, said during Saturday’s meeting that there has been discussion of metal detectors in schools, but it is not an easy logistical change.

Clarke said that he’s seen the effort needed to install those devices and other security measures at a Washington, D.C., school, as safety concerns were heightened following the school shooting in 2018 at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County.

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“That is an unbelievable undertaking, when a school system anywhere in this state, in this country, commits to that type of weapons mitigation. … Once you go down that road, you’re very wed  to that in the long term,” Clarke said.

Ghost guns

There has been a focus at both the federal and state levels to put restrictions on ghost guns.

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Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy is among those who have spoken in favor of banning ghost guns. During a press conference this week with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and law enforcement officials, McCarthy said four ghost guns had been recovered at Montgomery County schools since those seizures have been tracked.

In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, three state officials — Frosh, state Sen. Susan Lee and Del. Lesley Lopez — said a ghost gun was found after an incident at Northwood High School in November.

Police said at the time that authorities received a tip that a 15-year-old student might have taken the gun to school.

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School security and administrators searched the student and found two rounds of ammunition, the principal said at the time. The student fled, then later turned himself in. The gun was found off school property, according to police.

This story will be updated.

Managing Editor Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com