'The Training Kicked In': Officer Who Halted Great Mills High School Shooting Receives Valor Award - NBC4 Washington

'The Training Kicked In': Officer Who Halted Great Mills High School Shooting Receives Valor Award

Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill received the National Award of Valor

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sheriff's Deputy Honored for Response to School Shooting

    School safety was atop the agenda at a summit in Annapolis Thursday. Derrick Ward reports a deputy who knows firsthand what it's like in the chaotic moments of a school shooting was recognized. (Published Thursday, April 19, 2018)

    The school resource officer who brought a quick end to a deadly shooting at a Maryland high school received a valor award Thursday and recalled his response to the incident, saying his training kicked in immediately.

    "I know everybody says 'hero, hero,' but I wouldn't call myself a hero," Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill said. "Everybody at the school, teachers and staff and all them, they're all the heroes."

    Gaskill, of the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office, was at Great Mills High School on March 20 when a student opened fire shortly before classes began for the day. Two other students were shot; one would turn out to be fatally wounded. Gaskill opened fire at the shooter, hitting his gun at the same time the shooter took his own life.

    Gaskill, a nine-year veteran of the sheriff's office, is still in his first year as a school resource officer.

    "I can't speak for anybody else, but I'm glad I was there and it went the way it did," he said.

    Thursday, Gaskill received the National Award of Valor from the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) during a school safety summit in Annapolis.

    "Without hesitation or regard for his own safety, Deputy Gaskill reacted immediately upon hearing a gunshot," NASRO Executive Director Mo Canady said in a release. "By responding directly to and confronting the threat, he eliminated the potential for far greater loss of life."

    The award Gaskill received Thursday is given for "a single act of courage and valor" in which a school resource officer or staff member risked his or her life to protect others, according to the release.

    "The training kicked in right away and I never thought anything about it," Gaskill said.

    In addition, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan presented Gaskill with an official governor's citation and commended him for his heroic actions.

    "He really did his job," Hogan said, "and Lord knows what would have happened if it didn't, if he wasn't there to help end" the incident.

    The summit at the National Guard armory in Annapolis was about being proactive.

    "What we can teach students about safety, they can take that to the community," Maryland Center for School Safety Executive Director Ed Clarke said. "So it's about situation awareness; it's about civic responsibility."

    Officer Acted Quickly to Halt Shooting, Authorities Said

    Authorities say 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins arrived at the school about 7:50 a.m. March 20, walking through the main entrance while carrying a handgun legally owned by his father.

    Five minutes after entering the school, Rollins approached his ex-girlfriend, 16-year-old Jaelynn Willey, and shot her in the head; she would die in the hospital days later. Another student, a 14-year-old boy, was struck in the back of his thigh by the same bullet, police have said.

    As Rollins made his way down the hall, he encountered Gaskill, who fired and hit Rollins' weapon. At the same time, Rollins turned his gun on himself and fired one fatal shot to his head, police said.

    The shooting happened four days before the national March for Our Lives, a rally for student safety inspired by the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

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