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Updated: 10/22/2009 - 4:04 AM

Tragedy averted in Mattituck school shooting
Lawyer: Gunman was cleaning rifle  click for video
  5 comments below

Fear came to the North Fork last Thursday in the form of a school shooting.

For a few tense moments that afternoon, anyone connected with Mattituck High School -- students, teachers, parents and friends -- scrambled to either give or get information on just what happened at 1:53 p.m. and why the school was in lockdown.

It was soon apparent that tragedy had been averted. A single bullet -- allegedly fired from a .22-caliber rifle by a man living near the school -- had buzzed through an open classroom window and inexplicably slowed down enough not to severely hurt the girl whose head was struck by the projectile.

Eighteen-year-old Amanda Olsen suffered a minor head injury -- the bullet left a dimple on her left temple -- and was treated in the school nurse's office. The senior was back at school the next day.

Prosecutors said an unemployed bartender living with his parents is responsible for the shooting. Kevin Ehlinger, 28, remains in jail on $100,000 cash bail. For now, he faces a misdemeanor weapons charge, but Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Steven Kuehhas said the Mr. Ehlinger could face a charge as serious as attempted murder.

"Witnesses said they observed the defendant come out and start mowing the lawn after the shots were fired," Mr. Kuehhas said at Mr. Ehlinger's arraignment on Friday. "It's clear the defendant was trying to hide the fact that he discharged the weapon."

'The allegations are serious enough. The public should be protected.' Judge Rudolph Bruer
While police K-9 units tracked down the suspect, students and teachers were kept inside the school for nearly an hour. Some students used their mobile phones to exchange text messages with their parents.

How many shots Mr. Ehlinger fired, where he was aiming and what slowed the velocity of the bullet that hit Ms. Olsen remains unclear, police said. Mr. Ehlinger, who lives just east of the school at 265 Village Lane, discharged the rifle accidentally while cleaning it, said his lawyer, Peter Danowski. The defense attorney also noted that his client is dependent on prescription medication.

Mr. Ehlinger is expected back in Southold Town Justice Court today (Oct. 15) at 9:30 a.m. The evidence in the case was presented yesterday to a grand jury in Riverhead.

The following timeline documents the series of events that led to Kevin Ehlinger's arrest in Thursday's shooting at Mattituck High School:

1:53 p.m. -- Students and teachers at Mattituck High School hear several gunshots. Senior Amanda Olsen, 18, who had been seated in her skills class, reports that she was hit in the head by a projectile that came through an open classroom window. She is treated by the school nurse for a minor head injury.

2:09 p.m. -- Dismissal time, but the school remains in lockdown as Southold Police track down the suspect and comb the school for evidence.

2-3 p.m. -- Text messages sent from students to their parents allege an array of circumstances that turn out not to be true. One false rumor was that the shooting occurred in the school store and that a student was responsible.

3 p.m. -- Students and employees are permitted to leave the building.

3:15 p.m. -- Superintendent James McKenna leaves district parents a voicemail message assuring them "Everyone is safe."

3:16 p.m. -- Mr. Ehlinger, 28, who lives just east of the school, is arrested. He is later charged with a misdemeanor weapons violation.

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5 comments found

re: Trying to hide the fact : 10/20/2009
There is no such thing as an accidental discharge of a firearm. There are only negligent disharges. Negligent being the operative word. No responsible owner of a firearm cleans it without first clearing Kevin Ehlinger needs to be punished severely for his negligent actions.

: 10/19/2009
Why is the Suffolk Times not updating this story? What happened to Mr. Ehlinger at his court appearance? Any updates from the grand jury?

"Accident" : 10/16/2009
Did "Hi Oprah" accidently slip out of this man's mouth....does he always clean his mother's rifle while pointing at the High School...and did one bullet split in two to also allegedly ping off the janitor....If Amanda lost an eye should it be treated delicately because it was an accident?..And lastly..if your son was on 'medication' do you think it's the right thing to ask him to clean your rifle while you go to the city?

Disgusted : 10/15/2009
Are you kidding me..."no one was really physically hurt here." A child was struck by a bullet. And seriously...who cleans a gun with bullets in it. He does not sound very smart to me.

Trying to hide the fact... : 10/15/2009
Mr. Kuehhas, attempted murder is a serious acquisition. Kevin would not purposely hurt anyone. This was an accident! If what you say is true about him trying to hide the fact that he accidentally discharged the weapon; I have this simple question: when you accidentally let one slip in Church do you shout I did it, or do you try to pretend that you didn't accidentally discharge and hope for the best? I know, silly analogy for a very serious event but Kevin is a very smart and a peaceful person who doesn't deserve to serve more time then he needs to. There is a reason why no one was really physically hurt here and it is because Kevin was not trying to hurt anyone. Be logical, please!!!

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