GDS Security Guard Wounded in Burke Shooting

The exterior of Edmund Burke School sectioned off with caution tape. Photos by Reid Alexander.

Tony Harris, a member of the GDS security team, was shot on Friday, April 22, outside Edmund Burke School. He was running the Burke car pick-up lane at the time of the shooting, Burke sophomore Mia Davidson told the Bit. Harris was severely wounded in the incident, according to authorities from the D.C. police department. 

After undergoing surgery, he was in a stable condition but remained in intensive care on the afternoon of April 26, Head of School Russell Shaw wrote then in an email to the GDS community.

The shooting happened right outside Burke, a private middle and high school located in the Van Ness neighborhood, less than two miles from GDS. Harris was on duty at Burke, where he provides security services part-time. Shots rang out at 3:17 p.m., two minutes after the school was dismissed, according to a video posted by the shooter on 4chan.

The 23-year-old shooter, Raymond Spencer, firing a rifle from a nearby apartment building, first shot many rounds through the glass windows of the enclosed bridge that connects the two buildings of Burke on either side of the school’s carpool lane. Spencer subsequently wounded a sixth-grade student who was fleeing on the bridge. 

Spencer then aimed his weapon below the bridge at a man who appears to be Harris, who was running behind a car, and shot in his direction over ten times, as seen in the video. In the clip, the man had on a bright yellow crossing guard vest because he was conducting the line of parents in cars waiting to pick up their kids. 

“There is not a day that has gone by that Tony has not expressed how grateful he is to be a part of GDS,” Shelley Harris, GDS’ director of security, wrote in a statement to the Bit. “Every day he has shown up with the willingness to contribute to the safe environment all security team members work so hard to provide.”

On Monday, April 25, the high school community assembled in the Forum before class to hear from High School Principal Katie Gibson, Shaw and Shelley Harris about Tony Harris’ condition and how best to support him and his family.

Shaw asked the school to observe a moment of silence to send good wishes to Harris. In his April 26 email, Shaw wrote that “there will be a long road to recovery.”

At the time of the shooting, Davidson was with a group of students walking toward the bridge. They were preparing to leave the school when they heard the sounds of gunfire. “All the glass went up in the air and then dropped,” she said. “All the windows were crashing, and everything was exploding. There were bullets flying everywhere.”

The shattered glass bridge at Burke.

The group of students first took refuge in a teacher’s office in the building but a few were later asked to move into a safer location, a janitorial closet, where adults checked in periodically. “We were sitting in that dark closet for maybe four hours,” she said. “We were all freaking out and praying together. All we could do was wait.”

The long, drawn-out lockdown at Burke was a traumatic experience for students and teachers. Many students were crying and contacting their parents, according to Burke students who spoke to the Bit. One sophomore even had to wrap her jacket around the injured sixth-grade student’s bullet wound to prevent further bleeding, Davidson said. 

French and Spanish teacher Nicole Sade told the Bit that her son, a seventh-grader at Burke, was one of the few students who left the building before the shooting began. She described the distress that his classmates experienced during the incident. “Imagine being twelve years old and locked up until nighttime,” Sade said. 

In the evening, police officers found Spencer, who had died by suicide just before the officers entered the apartment. He had fired over 100 rounds of ammunition and injured four people, including Harris, although no one had been killed. 

On the afternoon of the shooting, several nearby schools such as Sidwell Friends went on lockdown, although most students had already left for the day by the time the attack was reported. Sections of Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia were placed on lockdown as well. GDS never followed suit even though it was “prepared to move to lockdown if authorities recommended this step at any time,” according to an email from Shaw addressed to the GDS community. 

On April 24, at an event celebrating the life of former Director Gladys Stern, Shaw described Harris as a “beloved member of our security team.” Shaw then asked the attendees to participate in a moment of silence in order to send prayers to Harris, who he said was at the George Washington University Hospital. 

In an interview with the Bit, jazz teacher Brad Linde said that Harris is a “sweetheart” who he has spoken with periodically at GDS events. 

Sophomore Darwin Gu said in an interview that he found the shooting “very concerning and scary” given Burke’s proximity to GDS’ campus. 

Of the ten GDS students contacted by the Bit, none had ever spoken to Harris at length. The Burke communications team did not respond to a request for comment.

Zachary Jager contributed reporting.

This story has been updated since its initial publication.

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