(Reuters) - A 16-year-old girl shot in the head by a fellow student at a Maryland high school has died, raising the death toll from the latest U.S. school shooting to two, including the shooter, authorities said on Friday.
Jaelynn Willey’s death shortly before midnight on Thursday came as hundreds of thousands of Americans were preparing to march nationwide on Saturday to press lawmakers for tighter gun controls.
The march will be led by survivors of a Florida high school shooting in February that claimed 17 lives, who have reignited efforts to tighten gun laws after decades of shooting sprees at U.S. schools and colleges. On the other side of the debate, gun rights advocates cite constitutional guarantees of the right to bear arms.
Willey, the second oldest of nine children, died surrounded by her family, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “It is with heavy hearts and great sadness we provide this update,” the statement said.
Willey’s mother had said at a hospital in Cheverly, Maryland, that her daughter had been declared brain dead and would be taken off life support.
“My daughter was hurt by a boy who shot her in the head and took everything from our lives,” she told reporters.
Austin Rollins, a 17-year-old student at Great Mills High School in southern Maryland, is suspected of shooting Willey in a hallway on Tuesday with his father’s handgun, according to the sheriff’s office. Willey had been in a relationship with Rollins that had recently ended.
A deputy sheriff stationed at the school confronted Rollins and they simultaneously fired at each other, according to police. Rollins was wounded and died at a hospital. The officer was unharmed.
Investigators have been uncertain over who fired a shot that hit a 14-year-old student in the leg.
An autopsy was being carried out on Rollins to determine whether he was killed by a shot fired by the officer or from a self-inflicted wound. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Corporal Julie Yingling said results of the autopsy would not be released until at least next week.
The fundraising website YouCaring showed more than $80,500 of a goal of $100,000 had been raised to pay for Willey’s medical expenses.
Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis