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Armed deputy key to ending Maryland school shooting: Dick Brandt

Posted 4/10/18

I am writing to follow up on what I wrote several weeks ago regarding the Parkland, Florida, school shooting and how to protect our school children.

Unfortunately, another school shooting took …

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Armed deputy key to ending Maryland school shooting: Dick Brandt

Posted

I am writing to follow up on what I wrote several weeks ago regarding the Parkland, Florida, school shooting and how to protect our school children.

Unfortunately, another school shooting took place about two weeks ago at Great Mills High School in southern Maryland. In that shooting a 16-year-old female student was shot in the head and died several days later in the hospital. A 14-year-old male student was shot in the leg and thankfully survived his injury. The shooter, a 17-year-old male, shot himself in the head when confronted by a heroic deputy sheriff.

I waited a while to write this letter until I saw some information from the police investigation into the shooting. Gathering information was a little more difficult because the media, particularly the national news media, practically ignored this event. Either the body count was not high enough for them or the way it turned out did not fit their agenda. Probably a little of both. The most reliable information came from local newspapers, like the one you are reading.

What makes this shooting different from the Parkland shooting is the body count. Only one female student tragically lost her life in this event. One person made the difference in this incident, and his name is Deputy Blaine Gaskill from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office in southern Maryland. Deputy Gaskill was the school resource officer for Great Mills High School, and he was on duty and doing his job on that fateful morning.

On a personal note, I highly commend Deputy Gaskill’s heroic actions that morning. He did his job to perfection and probably saved many lives in the process. I am sure his department and others will give Deputy Gaskill the honors he certainly deserves. If my child was a student at that school, I would thank him personally.

While this is a tragedy because an innocent teenager lost her life, it does graphically show what I spoke about in my previous guest column in this newspaper.

In the Parkland shooting, the shooter had free access to his victims for many minutes until police arrived. When the first officers were on the scene, they did not enter the building to do their job either because of fear or from being ordered to stand down.

Either way, the shooter had time to shoot 17 innocent people and then walk away.

In the Maryland shooting, Deputy Gaskill was in the building and only had to run down one hallway to intercept the shooter after the first shots were fired. Most of the sources I read seem to agree it was less than one minute from the time the first shot was fired until Deputy Gaskill confronted the shooter. It was over with 31 seconds later. The shooter had a handgun to his head and he and Deputy Gaskill fired at the same time after a brief standoff.

The shooter fell dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.

Deputy Gaskill’s shot hit either the shooters hand or his gun or maybe both. Deputy Gaskill was a SWAT trained officer, so he certainly knew how to shoot and how to do that under intense pressure. This is strictly my opinion, but if he did hit the shooter in the hand or gun, I believe that is where he was aiming. In other words, he may have been trying to save the suicidal shooter’s life by shooting the gun out of his hand.

The difference in these two shootings should be obvious. In the first shooting there were no armed personnel inside the building and the body count was 17. In the second shooting there was an armed person in the building and the body count was one.

The difference is time. The first shooter had plenty to do what he wanted, and the second had only seconds after the first shot was fired. Having an armed person in the building kept the bloodshed to a minimum. Period.

From everything I have read, the shooter in the Maryland shooting showed no outward signs that he was about to commit a murder in his school. While this is vastly different from the Parkland shooter, one thing remains crystal clear — laws did not stop either of them from carrying out their deadly missions.

The Maryland shooter probably violated several dozen state and federal laws in carrying out his shooting. The fact that he was only 17 and not allowed to own, possess or carry a handgun sure did not stop him.

And that was the federal laws. Maryland has even stricter laws concerning handguns, he did not obey them either. What did stop him? Deputy Blaine Gaskill doing his job.

Unfortunately, to me, these school shootings are a product of our society. As such, they are not going to be easily solved and the solution may take a generation or two. While we wait for that to happen, at least have the common sense to arm our school personnel or put a police officer in every school.

Once that is in place, I truly believe you will see a drastic decrease in the mass shootings we have seen in the recent past.

The Maryland shooting proves that approach.

Dick Brandt is the former chief of the Lower Swatara Township Police Department.