Jaelynn Willey, the 16-year-old girl shot at her Maryland high school earlier this week, died on Thursday evening according to a statement from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office. “Jaelynn Rose Willey died surrounded by her family,” the Sheriff’s office said. “It is with heavy hearts and great sadness we provide this update.”
Willey’s family made the decision on Thursday to take her off of life support. Melissa Willey, Jaelynn’s mother, told reporters that her daughter was brain dead and had “no life left in her.” “On Tuesday our lives changed completely,” she said as she held her infant. “My daughter was hurt by a boy who shot her in the head and took everything from our lives.”
Jaelynn, a junior, was shot on Tuesday while standing in the hallway at her high school, Great Mills High School in Maryland. The shooter, 17-year-old Austin Rollins, seems to have targeted Jaelynn after she recently ended her relationship with him. “All indications suggest the shooting was not a random act of violence,” the police said in a statement.
According to numerous reports, Rollins obtained the Glock handgun that he used to murder Jaelynn from his own home. The St. Mary’s County Sheriff confirmed that the gun was registered to Rollins’s father. A 14-year-old student was also injured during the attack. The Associated Press reports that the injured student is, according to his mother, “alive, doing well and in good spirits.”
Rollins was killed at the scene.
Willey’s murder is a grim reflection on the often deadly link between domestic violence and gun violence. Research shows that guns are used in 53% of intimate partner homicides. But if Willey’s murder follows a pre-established pattern between intimate partner violence and murder, then the narratives following the shooting have been as disappointingly predictable.
Yesterday, an Associated Press article made its way through social media channels after the story described Rollins as a “lovesick teen.” “Tuesday’s school shooting in southern Maryland that left the shooter dead and two students wounded increasingly appears to be the action of a lovesick teenager,” the story began. The description of a Rollins, who murdered his ex-girlfriend and shot another student (bystander injuries are common during intimate partner homicides), portrays him as “lovesick” rather than abusive or violent.
Such descriptions, no doubt, mitigate the murder of a 16-year-old girl, repositioning the narrative flow of empathy away from Jaelynn Willey to the teenager who ended her life. The continued and common framing of such stories isn’t surprising, but it will always be infuriating that such easy sympathy can be found for such violent acts and those who commit them.