One dead after shooting in Smyrna Middle School parking lot

Delaware State Police's Jason Hatchell talks about the shooting in Smyrna during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Delaware State News/Marc Clery
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SMYRNA — The suspect of a shooting in the parking lot of Smyrna Middle School that left one woman dead has been airlifted to a Maryland hospital after a police chase crossed state lines Tuesday. 

The shooting occurred in the front parking lot of the school at approximately 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, police said.

At a press conference Tuesday, police said the incident began when the 38-year-old Smyrna woman victim argued with the suspect, a 47-year-old Smyrna man, and it escalated  at the parking lot of the school where the man shot the woman. 

A school resource officer responded within moments and rendered first aid, Delaware State Police spokesman Cpl. Jason Hatchell  said. The victim died at the scene.

Police confirmed that she was not a school employee. Smyrna Police Department spokesman Brian Donner described the suspect and victim as family, but are still working on the specific relationship. No identification was released at the press conference, and police are working on notifying  next of kin. 

After the shooting the suspect fled  and was located by State Police, Cpl. Hatchell said. The police attempted a traffic stop, but the suspect fled,  beginning a pursuit that crossed state lines into Maryland.  At that point, Maryland State Police took the lead, with assistance from DSP aviation and MSP aviation.

The pursuit ended on Maryland Route 213, when the suspect lost control of the car and crashed into a tree in Galena, Maryland. He was airlifted from the scene and is being treated in a Maryland-area hospital, Cpl. Hatchell said.

Smyrna Superintendent Patrik Williams said that all schools in the district went into lockdown protocl within minutes of the incident Tuesday morning. District staff alerted the community, families and staff.

All students and staff are safe, he said. 

After communicating with police, the schools were opened internally, and students resumed classes, he said. 

"We are very appreciative of the efforts of both Smyrna PD and the Delaware State Police in helping us navigate an unfortunate incident," he said. 

Schools all had a normal dismissal Tuesday afternoon. Students from the middle school were escorted by school resource officers to the adjacent high school for parent pick up.

Due to COVID-19, the school was operating on a hybrid model, with about 30% of its typical 800-student capacity, Mr. Williams said. 

Wednesday is a deep cleaning day for the district, with no students coming on site, Mr. Williams said. 

All eight schools will be working with administration and will provide counseling services for students and families, he said. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Smyrna Middle School Principal Stephanie Smeltzer announced in a letter to families that counselors will be available at the school on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The students can be brought to the school for support, she said. Ms. Smeltzer said calls can be made to the school at 653-8584 as well.

“We are here to help,” she said. “We will also have counselors on staff to support our students for weeks to come.

“The Smyrna Community is #SmyrnaStrong. We will lean on each other and support each other as we work through this.”

Lt. Donner said, "It's tough. The whole community is going to be shook. There's no doubt about it."

"This is a small, close, tight-knit community. A lot of the community type events are organized through the school district, so this hits extra close to home because of that," he said. "People are going to be shook for a while, there's no doubt about it. This is not common to have happened every day for sure."

Early Tuesday afternoon, yellow caution tape had been placed around the front parking lot, and two helicopters were seen hovering over the school.

Later in the afternoon, students could be seen dismissing the middle school from a side door and being escorted by teachers to school buses at the adjacent Smyrna High School.

This story will be updated.