RISING SUN — A father shot his 7-year-old son dead inside their Rising Sun-area home Sunday and then turned the weapon on himself, taking his own life, according to the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office.
On Monday afternoon, CCSO officials identified the boy as Mason Holcombe, who was pronounced dead at the shooting scene in the 1100 block of Ridge Road, north of Rising Sun.
Mason attended Bethany Christian School in Oxford, Pa., Kevin Fry, head of the school, confirmed for the Cecil Whig. But as of Monday afternoon, Fry declined to release any additional information, explaining that he and other school administrators had not received permission from family members to do so.
The boy previously had been enrolled with Cecil County Public Schools and, because of that, with the first day of school set for Tuesday, CCPS will have a “crisis counseling team available to provide any necessary assistance to students and staff,” police reported.
CCSO officials identified the father as 33-year-old Joshua Phillip Holcombe, who was flown by a Maryland State Police helicopter crew to University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Unit in Baltimore, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving there.
Holcombe was married at the time of the fatal double-shooting, which occurred at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, according to Lt. Michael Holmes, a CCSO spokesman. Holmes told the Cecil Whig that two other adults and another young child also were inside the residence at the time of the incident. He said they were relatives, but declined to release their names.
“We are investigating this as a murder-suicide. There were witnesses, and we are interviewing them to determine exactly what happened. There was some sort of disturbance at the residence prior to the shooting, but the child (Mason) was not involved in that disturbance. We are still trying to piece things together,” Holmes said, adding, “A handgun was located and seized from inside the residence. Investigators believe the handgun was used during the incident.”
CCSO deputies, Maryland State Police troopers and Rising Sun Police Department officers responded to the 911 dispatch, police said. They found Mason, who had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, in one part of the house and they found his gravely-wounded father at another location in the residence, police added.
“The boy was shot multiple times. This was an intentional shooting,” Holmes said, adding that the father shot himself one time shortly after opening fire on his son. “There was not a long gap between the two (shootings).”
Autopsies on the son and father were completed Monday morning at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore; however, toxicology results to determine if Holcombe was under the influence of alcohol and, or, drugs at the time of the fatal shootings will not be available for several weeks, according to Holmes.
Noting that CCSO investigators are aware of speculation and reports on social media, Holmes commented, “We are looking into the mental health aspect as well. Investigators are actively researching his (Holcombe’s) mental health background.”
A statewide search of online judicial records, dating back to 2010, indicates that no criminal charges had been filed against Holcombe.
Holmes also told the Cecil Whig that the Critical Incident Stress Management Team has made counselors available to any law enforcement officer who worked at the double-fatal shooting scene and desires help coping with the emotional impact it may have had on him or her.
“Law enforcement is always a stressful job, but when it involves a child fatality, whether it is a motor vehicle accident or an incident like this, the impact is always much more severe on first responders,” Holmes explained.
The last time the CISM team was put into action was in May, when a North East-area crash killed three children and their uncle.
Yellow crime scene tape cordoned off the Ridge Road property, which is located in a rural section of Cecil County. CCSO and Maryland State Police vehicles, as well as emergency vehicles, lined the road and numerous officers were bustling on and around the property.
A woman who lives on Ridge Road, several houses away from the double-shooting scene, told the Cecil Whig that she noticed a distraught woman go by her home Sunday afternoon.
“I saw a woman running down the road, toward the house (where the double-shooting occurred). She was crying and screaming, ‘It was my grandson. It was my grandson’,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous.
While the on-scene investigation was continuing late Sunday afternoon, a few visibly upset people arrived there. Some of them hugged and cried after seeing each other.
On Facebook, Joshua’s brother, Justin Holcombe, a well-known tattoo artist in the county, wrote that his family is struggling to understand why the violence occurred.
“This is the last thing I want to be doing right now. But as I wake up wishing it was all a bad dream I’m confronted with the news and social media about the unfathomable tragedy that my family is trying to deal with right now. My little brother adored his children and his family. He was the best father I’ve ever seen. None of this makes any sense,” he wrote, pleading with the community to not spread rumors about the incident. “We are all completely baffled and our centers are fractured at their cores. I honestly don’t know what is even real anymore. I need time. My family needs time. Please allow the dust to settle and for us to get the closest thing to the truth that we can get before stories are told and theories are developed. We simply can’t understand why. It doesn’t make any sense.”