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Concerns spread to commuters, schools

October 08, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

As an administrator for Montgomery County Public Schools, Edward Masood's top priority in the midst of a harrowing shooting spree has been the safety of about 140,000 students.

He said he's not worried for himself, though.

"I do the same thing I do every day," said Masood, the director of the school district's division of arts, health and physical education. "If your number's up, your number's up.

"You just do what you've got to do and if you don't get shot, then it's a good day," said Masood, who lives in Williamsport and Rockville, Md.

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Others, though, are more fearful as police work to solve what appears to be a series of random killings centered in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Five people were shot and killed in a 16-hour span in Montgomery County on Wednesday and Thursday and another in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night.

In two other cases that authorities say are connected to the six deaths, a woman was wounded outside a craft store in Fredericksburg, Va., on Friday and a teenage boy was shot and critically wounded outside a middle school in Bowie, Md., on Monday.

Some people are taking small steps to be - or feel - safer.

Shane Fulmer said he makes sure he gets gas in Hagerstown before he drives to work at Balmar Printing and Graphics in Gaithersburg, Md.

One shooting victim - a taxi driver - was killed Thursday while pumping gas in the Aspen Hill area of Montgomery County.

Fulmer said he is more concerned about his wife, Kathleen, who works in Silver Spring, Md., but is thinking of getting a job in Washington County.

Another of the five victims in Montgomery County was shot and killed Thursday outside a post office near the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring.

Janice Kelsh of Hagerstown works at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration in Rockville. She said the Aspen Hill gas station and Leisure World are each about 10 minutes away from her office.

Kelsh said she takes her lunch to work most days and doesn't venture out much, so her routine hasn't been "uprooted" by the shootings.

She planned to walk to the train station on the day of the shooting, but took a shuttle bus instead. "You just never know what to expect," she said.

Concern about the shootings has filtered to Frederick and Washington counties.

Frederick County Public Schools locked down its buildings Monday after the shooting in Bowie, just like Montgomery County Public Schools did. Outdoor activities in both districts were canceled.

Students in both school districts were not allowed outside until dismissal time, when supervisors closely watched as they boarded buses.

The Washington County Board of Education on Monday morning issued an update about the latest shooting, but did not impose a building lockdown, spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

Clear Spring Middle School students were kept inside for recess and gym classes, Principal Roger Stenerson said.

For recess, Bester Elementary School students were moved away from the Potomac Street side of the building to a spot where they could be more closely monitored, Mowen said.

A group of students in a medical study program at North Hagerstown High School proceeded with their field trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Principal Robert Myers said the administration decided that the students were safe because they were not outside.

A Williamsport Elementary School field trip to Baltimore scheduled for today was canceled, according to Mowen.

Local police sent extra patrols to Washington County schools Monday afternoon.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department also sent more deputies to "high volume" areas in the county, such as Valley Mall and Prime Outlets, Sheriff Charles F. Mades said.

Mades said the additional police protection should have helped Washington County residents feel safer.

"We're on top of it as best as we can be," he said.

Staff writer Pepper Ballard contributed to this story.

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