Charged as an adult in the Perry Hall High School shooting, 15-year-old Robert Wayne Gladden Jr., was held without bond Tuesday as a portrait of a withdrawn and occasionally bullied student with a troubled home life emerged through interviews with classmates and court documents.
The suspect was charged with attempted murder and assault in the cafeteria shooting on Monday, the first day of classes. He underwent a mental health evaluation Tuesday, and had been held at the Baltimore County Detention Center. In a brief statement, county prosecutors said he would not have a bail hearing Wednesday because he was at a medical facility.
Gladden's lawyer, George Psoras Jr., cautioned against a rush to judgment, saying the bullying his client endured pushed him to a breaking point.
Gladden's stepfather, with whom he lived along with his mother and older sister, was also arrested Monday after police searched their Kingsville home and found marijuana and firearms in the home. The stepfather, Andrew Eric Piper, 43, was previously convicted of grand theft, prohibiting him from possessing firearms, police said.
The shotgun allegedly used in Monday's shooting, though, came from Gladden's father's home in Middle River, where the teenager sometimes stayed, police said.
Gladden is "devastated" and "out of it," unable to comprehend the charges against him, Psoras said. Police interviewed him for hours without a lawyer on Monday and took a lengthy statement, Psoras said, claiming that authorities "usurped" the young man's will.
"Everybody needs to keep an open mind; this process is just beginning," Psoras said, asking outsiders to "give the Gladdens peace and some space as they deal with this family tragedy."
According to charging documents, Gladden entered the school cafeteria with a shotgun and began shooting. He fired the first shot at a lunch table and struck Daniel Borowy, 17, in the back, police said. The victim remained in critical condition Wednesday afternoon at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he had been airlifted. Police said it didn't appear Gladden targeted Borowy.
A deeper picture of the suspect emerged Tuesday as students returned to school under heavier security and after many attended a morning prayer vigil for Borowy. Friends and classmates described Gladden as increasingly alienated and downcast, someone whose long black hair and dark wardrobe made him "one of the weird kids" who got picked on at school, his friend Collin Asbury, 17, said Tuesday.
"He was just so mentally and psychologically injured," Asbury said of Gladden, adding that doesn't excuse violence. "When people act so harshly to someone for such a long period of time, it has an impact."
Other students say Gladden seemed to turn inward, not talking much and tuning others out by putting his head down on his desk during classes. That was how Imaris Reyes remembers him spending some of their world history class Monday morning.
About the only thing he said during class was in response to the teacher's question about how he'd like to be addressed, Reyes said. Bob or Rob, she recalled Gladden saying, adding that he didn't care.
Still, the teacher worked to engage him, trying to recruit him as one of the students who gathered their classmates' work to submit to her. "We had a helper from each table," Reyes said. "[The teacher] told him to collect the papers."
But Gladden didn't respond. Instead, she said, "he put his hair over his head and stared at the desk."
Another student, Trent McCallum, a junior, said he noticed a change in Gladden last school year. He started wearing baggy black clothes and dying his hair black, and some students started to mock him, McCallum said.
"Something big changed in his life," McCallum said. "He was acting sad and he was lonely, but I think he had good in him."
At 6:27 a.m. Monday, on a Facebook page in which Gladden lists his employer as "The Manson Family" and calls the Columbine shooters "inspirational people," he posted: "First day of school, last day of my life."
Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson said Gladden took the school bus, carrying with him a Western Field double-barrel shotgun, 21 rounds of 16-gauge, 7.5 shot and a bottle of vodka. He went to his first- and second-period classes, then the cafeteria for lunch, Johnson said, first placing a black backpack with the shotgun, disassembled, in a nearby bathroom.
Students said some kids were throwing food at Gladden in the cafeteria — and not for the first time, said Matt Pedata, 19, a senior who had an art class with him last year.
"He was picked on all the time," Pedata said. "Bullies threw food on him all the time, pushed him all around."
Police said that although the students who threw things at Gladden on Monday had already left the cafeteria, he went to the bathroom to retrieve and assemble the gun.
Court documents reveal that Gladden's home life had its problems as well.
His parents, the former Bonnie Lee Shumaker and Robert Gladden Sr., married in Towson on April 10, 1992. His mother, then 19, was four months pregnant with a girl, Ashlie Ann, who will turn 20 next month. Gladden Senior was 20, according to court documents.
In January 1996, Bonnie Gladden filed an assault complaint against her husband, according to online court records, and he was charged with assault with intent to murder, use of a deadly weapon and battery. A judge acquitted him at trial, records show.
The details of the case were unavailable, according to the Baltimore County District Court clerk's office. County police spokeswoman Cpl. Cathleen Batton said she found a police report involving the couple from 1996 but couldn't confirm that it was from the same case. In that report, Bonnie Gladden claimed that her husband assaulted her while they were driving and that she sustained cuts and scratches.
Their son was born Aug. 5 of the following year.
When he was 10, Gladden's parents split up, filing a formal separation agreement in Baltimore County Circuit Court. Bonnie Gladden asked for custody of the children but offered to grant their father visitation as long as he "does not take the children out of state" and "follows the treatment plan his doctor prescribes for mental health," court records show.
The separation agreement called for the children to live with her and have "liberal visitation" with their father, three times per week. They shared holidays and birthdays and traded off weekends.
The Gladdens agreed to split most of the family debts and vehicles. Gladden Senior. originally agreed to pay $200 a week in child support until the children reached age 18 and to pay his wife $100 a week for six months or until she found a full-time job. She eventually found work that paid $11.15 per hour and offered 36 hours per week, court records show. Gladden Senior averaged a salary of about $24,870 per year.
But he was in arrears almost from the start. By April 2009, he owed nearly $2,700 in back child support.
Bonnie Gladden filed for divorce the next month, asking for sole physical and legal custody of the couple's two children and declining to pursue alimony because "I just want to end marriage and put this all behind me," she wrote in a three-page complaint.
She was awarded a judgment of divorce a year later. Gladden Senior didn't show up for the divorce hearing.
By November of last year, Gladden Senior was $8,400 behind in child support payments. He'd racked up a string of traffic charges involving driving on a suspended license or without registration, though the cases were rarely pursued. And he was charged with marijuana possession three times in the past decade — twice in 2011 — receiving probation before judgment twice and one 60-day jail sentence.
The Gladdens developed a new parenting agreement late last year and agreed to cease child support going forward. They agreed to split expenses, including "financial obligations [Robert Junior] incurs while a minor that parents will be responsible for, such as damages to other people's property or restitution for any crimes he commits."
The parents couldn't be reached to comment Tuesday.
Psoras said Gladden took the shotgun to school intending to do "nothing more than to intimidate, to stop somebody from bullying." Psoras, a Lutherville-based lawyer, also has defended the father in some of his brushes with the law.
"Everybody's trying to compare [this case] to Columbine, to the horrible events in Colorado and the recent 'Joker' [in Maryland] who made statements to his employer," Psoras said. "But you can't generalize and just put Bobby Gladden in this category with these other people. He's a truly nice young man; he has no prior contacts with the criminal justice system."
"He clearly didn't comprehend the magnitude of what happened," Psoras said.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this poor young man who was accidentally shot," Psoras added, referring to Borowy. "We wish him nothing but a speedy recovery. The Gladdens are devastated. … They're not cold, callous people. They have a teenager, just like this family."
The suspect's friend Asbury said Gladden was into skateboarding, biking and video games. He said his friend was a fan of Invader Zim, a Nickelodeon animated series about an extraterrestrial trying, often haplessly, to conquer Earth, and especially the character GIR, an erratic and irreverent robot made of spare parts.
Gladden was wearing a bright green shirt featuring GIR on Monday, Asbury said. He saw Gladden Monday morning, and only in retrospect did he notice something different.
"He usually walked with his head a little tilted, but it was down," Asbury said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times