2022 | Courts

UPDATED: Other students might have been in bathroom when Magruder student was shot, police chief says

Jones chastises anyone who posted on Twitter instead of calling 911

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Police Chief Marcus Jones speaks to reporters on Monday at police headquarters about Friday's shooting at Col. Zadok Magruder High School.

Photo by Caitlynn Peetz

This story was updated at 7:20 p.m. Jan 24, 2021, and again at 9 p.m. to add more details from the police press conference

Other students might have been in the bathroom when a 17-year-old student at Col. Zadok Magruder High School shot a 15-year-old student on Friday, according to Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones.

Jones told reporters on Monday that there was “an ongoing dispute between the victim and the shooter” and a “matter was pre-determined to be settled inside of the bathroom at that particular time.”

Jones said police discovered during the investigation that other students were “possibly present” in the bathroom and tweeting about it. But those students didn’t call 911 or alert school staff members, he said.

Jones said students know that someone is injured, it’s more important to help them than to be the “superstar on Twitter for the day.”

“I think one of the lessons learned here is that we have to talk to our students about what they know on the front end,” he said. “We know that we have young people that are in our schools that are carrying guns that we know about. Most of the time, other kids know what’s happening even before we know what’s happening.”

The 17-year-old student bought a “ghost gun” online, then used it to shoot the 15-year-old, prosecutors from the State’s Attorney’s Office said earlier on Monday.

“Ghost gun” refers to a weapon that’s usually privately made and lacks a commercial serial number.

The 17-year-old boy went into a restroom with a loaded 9-millimeter ghost gun knowing that there would be a confrontation, prosecutor Carlotta Woodward said during a bond review hearing in Montgomery County District Court on Monday.

The boy then pointed it at the head of the 15-year-old, who pushed the gun away, before the 17-year-old shot the victim in the pelvic area, according to Woodward, providing the most specific public account of what happened since Friday’s shooting.

The 15-year-old was taken to a hospital and was listed in critical condition as of Monday, State’s Attorney John McCarthy and Jones told reporters.

Woodward said the alleged shooter bought the ghost gun online and a friend helped him assemble it.

Emergency response and lockdown

Montgomery County police said on Saturday that school security found the victim in the bathroom on Friday with a gunshot wound. School system officials have credited school nurse Megan Wilson with quickly rendering aid to the victim, and potentially saving his life.

Jones said on Monday that school security found the student during a hall sweep at 12:53 p.m. Friday, during a class change. Four minutes later, a nurse arrived, called 911 and found a triage kit nearby to treat the victim’s wounds, Jones said.

Jones said the victim did not initially say he was shot or identify the shooter.

“That was information that was gathered a few minutes later,” he said.

The initial 911 dispatch was for Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service only, Jones said. When it was determined that the victim was shot, a call went out to the community engagement officer, a county sheriff’s deputy whose territory includes Magruder, he said.

The deputy got to the school around 1:12 p.m. and called for backup, with county police officers starting to arrive around 1:30 p.m., Jones said. The school had been put on lockdown at 1:05 p.m., he said.

“At this particular time, I want to make sure everybody understands that we don’t know who the suspect is, nor do we know where the suspect is,” he said. “So, these are things happening at that time when we have students in lockdown.”

Police search the school

Jones said authorities communicated with school system officials, and determined that the shooter was not in the classroom he was supposed to be in, which made it difficult to figure out where he was. Determining which classroom the shooter was in took a long time, he said.

Once officers found the classroom the suspect was in, officers discussed how to take him into custody without causing a scene.

“We put together our tactical response team in order to locate that particular classroom in which [the suspect] was located, and came up with a strategy to put [the suspect] into custody without creating any panic,” he said. “We wanted to do this as safely as possible, knowing that there were other students and staff inside of that room. That was done without incident.”

Officers found the ghost gun broken down into three parts in the classroom, Jones said. The frame of the gun was on the floor, the slide was in boy’s backpack and the gun clip containing ammunition was in his sock, Jones said.

Jones said that after the arrest, around 3 p.m., students had to remain in the building because officers needed to continue the investigation, such as interviewing witnesses and reviewing surveillance footage.

“There was a reason why we were not releasing students at that particular time. We needed to really slow down, because we had a massive area,” he said. “We had students that were locked down. And we wanted to make sure we were working in consultation with Montgomery County Public Schools to come up with an efficient dismissal plan to release all students in a safe manner, and to make sure that they were all accounted for.” 

Shooter currently charged as an adult

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.

Public defender Lucy Larkins requested during Monday’s bond review hearing that the 17-year-old be transferred to a juvenile facility because he is a minor and has no past criminal convictions. District Court Judge Zuberi Williams granted the transfer and ordered that the teen be held without bond, saying he was a danger to the community.

McCarthy said Monday that a recent state law passed during the last legislative session prevents him from being able to discuss the details of the investigation further.

He said that in cases such as this one, the defense often requests that it be transferred to juvenile court, although such a request had not been made yet in this case. If a request to transfer the case is made, the Department of Juvenile Services writes a report considering a variety of factors, such as the defendant’s age, role they played in the crime, and physical and mental development.

McCarthy said he wants the Magruder case to remain in adult court.

When asked whether additional charges could be forthcoming in the case, McCarthy declined to address specific details about the pending investigation.

“They’re still interviewing kids. Is there the potential that there could be other information that could come to our attention that could cause us to take different action? The answer to that is yes,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com