A student armed with a handgun has opened fire at a US high school in Maryland, injuring two classmates.
Great Mills High School said a gunman entered the building just before 8am (12pm GMT) on Tuesday and shot a female and male student in a hallway.
A school resource officer responsible for security then fired at the attacker after hearing gunfire shortly before classes were due to begin.
The gunman died later in hospital while the female victim is in a critical condition and the male victim is described as stable.
The officer was not injured. It is not clear if he had struck the gunman or if the attacker had shot himself.
County Sheriff Timothy Cameron said: “When the shooting took place, our school resource officer, who was stationed inside the school, was alerted to the event and the shots being fired.
“He pursued the shooter, engaged the shooter – during that engagement, he fired a round at the shooter. Simultaneously the shooter fired a round as well.”
He added: “In the hours to come, in the days to come, through detailed investigation, we will be able to determine if our school resource officer’s round struck the shooter.”
The sheriff said the motive of the gunman was unclear.
He said: “You train to respond to this and you hope that you never ever have to. This is the realisation of your worst nightmare.”
A St Mary’s County Public School spokesman said: “The building is orderly and the Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation.”
Witnesses tweeted from a secure area on site while other students were evacuated to a nearby school where they were reunited with their parents.
Mollie Davis, a student at the school, tweeted: “Hi Twitter. I am in Great Mills HS. My school is on a very real lockdown threat and there’s already someone possibly dead. Please pray for us.
“You never think it’ll be your school and then it is. Great Mills is a wonderful school and somewhere I am proud to go. Why us?”
I just boarded the bus to leave the school to go to the pick up center. I feel like there’s so much I want to say but I can’t find the right words. I wish everything was different.
— Mollie Davis (@davism0llie) March 20, 2018
She later added: “I am safe. The police came to my classroom and saw us to the bathroom and back and said we would be leaving soon.”
St Mary’s County sheriff’s office told parents not to go to the school, but to report to nearby Leonardtown High School.
Jonathan Freese, a student at the school, spoke to CNN from inside his maths classroom. He said the incident happened around 8am (12pm GMT), almost as soon as school had started.
He said: “I’ve heard one person got hurt trying to get the gun.
“I’m a little shaken up. I didn’t think it would really happen. It happened in the art hallway.
“I’m surprised I didn’t (hear gunshots).
“Police are checking on students and seeing if they are safe and we are going to be escorted out. We are told to leave our stuff.
“The police have responded really quickly.”
He said they had completed training for the event of a gunman in school.
He said: “I know I’m safe. Everyone responded, I heard sirens within five minutes.”
The county public schools’ tweeted: “There has been a Shooting at Great Mills High School. The school is on lock down the event is contained, the Sheriff’s office is on the scene additional information to follow.”
Students are being evacuated from GMHS and being bused to the reunification center at the Leonardtown HS campus. The building is orderly and the Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation. We will continue to update as more information becomes available.
— SMCPS_MD (@SMCPS_MD) March 20, 2018
The school has faced threats of a shooting in the past, and just last month, the principal Jake Heibel told parents a threat was “not substantiated”.
Three years ago the school was evacuated and every locker searched after a hoax call was made threatening the school.
Previous threats are going to be examined as part of the investigation.
According to the Baltimore Sun, St. Mary’s Ryken High School, a private school about 15 minutes away from Great Mills, has gone into lockdown.
The shooting comes four days before the planned March For Our Lives, organised after the Florida shooting in February, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed.