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Girl Shot Outside School By Rifleman In Camouflage Outfit; Search Under Way

October 3, 1988

MASCOTTE, Fla. (AP) _ A gunman clad in camouflage shot and wounded a third-grader on an elementary school field this morning, authorities said.

The girl was reported in stable condition with arm and chest wounds.

Police rushed to Mascotte Elementary School in this small central Florida community, searching a heavily wooded area for the man, said police dispatcher Cathy England.

″Somebody outside the fence of the school shot into the school grounds,″ said Betty June Cofield, secretary to the Lake County school superintendent. ″It was a man in a camouflage outfit.″ The man had used a rifle, authorities said.

The girl, identified as 9-year-old Leah Wilbanks of Mascotte, was shot just before 11 a.m. as she took part in a physical education class on the school’s PE field, said Ms. Cofield.

No one else was hurt in the incident, Ms. Cofield said. She did not know how many shots were fired.

The man apparently had been hiding in the brush before he jumped up and fired, authorities said. Capt. Randy Swails of the county sheriff’s department said he had a rifle, but authorities didn’t know the exact type or caliber.

A helicopter and a small plane were dispatched to assist in the search, and a dog team was summoned. The school is near a heavily wooded area, with orange groves and several lakes nearby.

Leah was in stable condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center, said spokeswoman Jean Lowe.

″She suffered two gunshot wounds to upper arm and chest. The bullets entered and exited,″ said Ms. Lowe. The child was being evaluated by doctors for possible surgery, she said.

After the shooting, worried-looking parents arrived at the school to take their children home. The school has an enrollment of about 415.

Jerry Kiefer of station WHOF-AM in Leesburg said Leah was the granddaughter of the station’s sales manager, Thomas Chapman.

Mascotte, whose road signs proclaim it ″The Friendly City,″ has a population of 1,100.

It was the third school shooting incident in as many weeks. Last week, two little girls were killed and nine other people wounded at a school in South Carolina, while the previous week, five people, none of them students, were killed in a shooting in and near a Chicago elementary school.

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