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Another Shooting

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By Tracey Reeves

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, October 7, 2002; 10:50 AM

A 13-year-old boy was shot this morning just before school in front of Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, authorities said this morning.

The boy's mother or other relative heard the shot at 8:09 a.m., returned to the school and rushed the boy to Bowie Health Center, where he was taken by helicopter to Children's Hospital in the District.

The student is undergoing surgery and is in serious condition, Capt. Andy Solberg, with the District police, said this morning. Police officials from Montgomery County, Prince George's County and the District are all at the hospital.

Shortly after 9 a.m., police stretched crime scene tape around a grassy, wooded hillside that rises directly across the street from Tasker Middle School. Investigators were combing through the area looking for shell casings or other evidence.

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose said it was "way too early" to say whether the shooting is related to the seven sniper attacks in the region over the past several days.

"Clearly this is an unfolding, evolving situation," Moose said. "We don't want to jump to any conclusions." Montgomery police investigators are at the scene of the school shooting, police spokeswoman Nancy Demme said this morning.

At one point, officers gathered at the school raced to a nearby Wal-Mart after a report--later discounted--that shots had been fired.

The school was a chaotic scene, as parents by the dozen rushed back to the school to check on or pick up their children. Parents parked cars on sidewalks and the grass, running toward the school with panicked looks on their faces. Inside the school, crowds of parents, some crying, asked school officials about their children.

The school, along with all schools in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, is on "code blue" status which means that all outside activities have been canceled, students are being held within the building and crisis counselors are on the scene. Officials at Tasker did say that parents can come and pick up their children if they wish.

Some parents did just that. Sharon Hartley, 37, came to pick up her 12-year-old son and hugging him outside the school said "I feel like I did the day he was born."

James Kim of Bowie came to pick up his son Andrew, 13, who was in the school at the time of the shooting. "I wasn't scared but there were students crying because some of the kids knew the kid who was shot," said Andrew, standing beside his father.

Arriving at the school, Prince George's County State's Attorney Jack Johnson said "I am shocked and sadeened by this but I don't want to speculate on this."

Other school districts around the region are responding to the latest violence. Montgomery County public schools have gone to 'code blue' the same status they went to Thursday morning when the four people were shot in the county. That means that afternoon kindergarten has been canceled. All outdoor recess and lunches have been canceled. A decision on after-school activities is still pending.

In the District, schools officials have canceled all outdoor activities as well and are asking Metropolitan police to increase patrols around the school.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

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