Officer is shot at Roland Park school Eighth-grader, 14, charged as an adult

February 25, 1992|By Robert Hilson Jr. and Michael James | Robert Hilson Jr. and Michael James,Staff Writers Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this article

A school police officer at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School was shot in the stomach yesterday when he struggled to take a gun away from a 14-year-old boy who had been fighting with another youth.

Officer James Kelly, 39, a 15-year veteran of the public-school force, was shot in the lower left stomach by a student recently transferred to Roland Park after disciplinary problems at another school, officials said.

The shooting prompted Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to say last night that "alternative, more regimented" ways to deal with school discipline cases must be found. Currently, problem students are shuffled between schools, said the mayor, whose 11-year-old daughter Katherine attends Roland Park.

Officer Kelly, who was assigned to the North Baltimore school just three months ago from Lombard Middle School, was listed in serious but stable condition last night at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Peter Adams, 14, of the 600 block of McCabe Avenue was charged as an adult with attempted murder and handgun violations following the shooting, police in the Northern District said. Three other youths were detained for questioning but were not charged last night.

Larry Burgan, the head of the city school police, said the youths also face possible expulsion from school.

"We've got to consider ways of putting some students in a more regimented, non-public setting," Mayor Schmoke said. "The incident that happened today was caused by a young person who couldn't be controlled in a public setting."

School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey called the shooting a "setback" for the school system and expressed surprise it had occurred at Roland Park, which is considered one of the city's safest and best schools.

"You don't expect to see these things happen at Roland Park -- but they happen," Dr. Amprey said, adding, "They [students] have to understand that this is not the way you deal with problems."

4 Roland Park draws students from across the city.

Overcrowding, as well as a recent influx of disciplinary cases transferred to Roland Park from other schools, has been a nagging concern of parents and teachers, said Meg McFadden, executive vice president of the Roland Park Parent Teacher Student Association.

"We're getting more than our fair share. We have more disciplinary problems than we should in that building," Ms. pTC McFadden said. The school, which has an enrollment of about 1,800, is about 400 students over capacity, she said.

"A lot of these kids end up bouncing around from school to school, and their problems aren't addressed," said Ms. McFadden, who said many disciplinary cases are sent to Roland Park because of the school's strong reputation.

The shooting occurred shortly before 3 p.m. when the school principal, vice principal and the officer took two students into the school police office to "counsel" them after an argument, Mr. Burgan said.

The police office is located across the hall from the school's main office, near the front door.

The principal, vice principal and one of the youths then left the office. While in the office with the other youth, Officer Kelly and the boy got into a struggle, Mr. Burgan said.

During the struggle, the officer was shot once in the stomach with a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun, Mr. Burgan said.

The wounded officer called for help, and a maintenance man helped the officer subdue and handcuff the youth. The handgun was recovered at the scene.

Only one shot was fired, and no other injuries were reported.

Kyle Klemm, a sixth-grader, said he heard a loud "boom" as he prepared to leave the school. "I was scared. I dropped my books and ran around the corner," Kyle said.

The two boys had scuffled last week, but school officials thought the youths had resolved their differences. They are unsure what caused the dispute to flare up.

Dr. Amprey said both boys were transfer students with a history of violence and fights in schools.

An 11-year-old sixth-grader said he knew one of the youths who was taken into custody.

"He broke my leg four months ago when he and about 20 other people jumped me," the youngster said. "That's the same person they carried off in the police cruiser."

Other students said that fights were numerous at the school, but that prior to yesterday's incident none had involved weapons.

"They have a lot of banks [gang beatings], but nothing like this," said Shaka Cooper, 14, an eighth-grader. "They say that Roland Park has a good rep, but a lot of things happen here."

A crisis team was to go to the school today if any students need counseling, Dr. Amprey said.

The superintendent said that unless youths' values change, "you probably will see a recurrence of this kind of thing."

The shooting baffled school officials, who said the incident is a societal problem, not just a school problem. "I don't know how guns get into school. There's a proliferation of guns in society," Mr. Burgan said.

Yesterday's shooting was the second since September in a city school. In that incident, a Hamilton Middle School student shot himself in the foot.

Meanwhile in Annapolis, a bill was introduced in the General Assembly to create mandatory penalties for bringing or using weapons on school grounds. "We've got to send a message out that schools are safe havens," said Del. Gene W. Counihan, D-Montgomery.

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