Police stood guard outside an elementary school Tuesday as a manhunt was pressed for a camouflaged sniper who seriously wounded a 9-year-old on the playground.
Absenteeism was high as local police and sheriff's deputies checked vehicles and school buses and guarded entrances at Mascotte Elementary School in the wake of Monday's shooting.The gunman rose up from behind some bushes around 11 a.m. Monday and fired three shots at a gym class on the school's playground before fleeing, Sheriff's Department spokesman Randy Swails said. Police have said they know of a suspect but gave few details.
Leah Wilbanks, a third-grader from Mascotte, was the only one of about 25 students who was wounded in the unprovoked attack, Swails said. She was listed in stable condition early today at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Worried parents kept more than 150 children home, said Sherry Crawford, front office secretary. Normally, only 15 to 20 children are absent from the 417-member student body.
"Quite a few parents walked their children in," she added. "We're trying to carry on as normal." Doors at the school were kept locked, except for the front door.
Earlier, Mascotte Principal Carmen Arnold said counselors would be on hand today to help the children deal with their fear.
The five-officer police station two blocks from the school was empty as local police teamed with deputies to search for the suspect.
"They haven't caught anybody yet," said June Bloodsworth, who was answering the police phone at City Hall this morning.
Police appealed for calm and patience, warning residents of this rural central Florida town not to take the law into their own hands. Some enraged townspeople carrying baseball bats had joined in the manhunt Monday.
"They should watch their kids and leave it to us," said Lake County Sheriff Noel E. Griffin Jr., who described the gunman as "a nut" with an unknown motive.