Several Scarborough High School students and a former local official who has known Matthew Gwyer since he was a child say he is kind, gentle and definitely not violent.

They said they were stunned to learn the 17-year-old senior was the person charged with shooting a Scarborough man in the abdomen while he slept on a couch at his home on Ash Swamp Road in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 18.

“Matt Gwyer is one of the last kids you would ever expect to do anything wrong.… He would never hurt a flea,” said Daniel Warren, a former town councilor and an attorney who is representing Gwyer’s parents. He said he has known the teenager for years, going back to when Warren coached him in youth sports. “Everybody is just astounded, saddened and shocked,” he said.

Rachel Mathews, a senior, said she knows Gwyer to be quiet, smart and not mean.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said Tuesday. Other students echoed her disbelief.

They said they have no knowledge of what might have triggered the event.

Bruce Glidden, 47, was shot twice in the abdomen while he slept on a couch, police said. His wife and children – a 17-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter – were asleep in other rooms of the house, police said. Police said the Gliddens were targeted but it isn’t clear what, if any, relationship they have with Gwyer.

Glidden’s son, Mahlon Glidden, also is a senior but students interviewed Tuesday said they didn’t know how well he and Gwyer knew each other. Mahlon Glidden is a well-known football player at the school. Gwyer has played basketball on a school team, though he didn’t this year.

On Tuesday, Scarborough Police Chief Robert Moulton took to social media to urge the town’s residents not to jump to conclusions before all the facts are known.

“I am writing in hopes that we will not let this event divide us, but instead, help us come together to heal as a community,” Moulton said on Facebook.

He said people are struggling to comprehend how such a crime could have happened and that has led some in the town to speculate and place blame.

“This has begun to lead to polarization within our community and on social media,” he said in the post. “I would ask that you wait for the facts to be revealed and have compassion for all involved parties.”

School officials are referring questions about the incident to the Scarborough Police Department, which has referred questions to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office.

Assistant District Attorney Michelle McCulloch said Tuesday that prosecutors could provide no additional details about the alleged crime because of the ongoing investigation.

Gwyer is charged with intending to shoot and kill Bruce Glidden, which he denies. At his initial appearance in juvenile court Monday, his attorney, Edwin Chester, denied charges of attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and felony burglary.

Chester could not be reached by telephone Tuesday.

Warren would not comment on various theories offered by Scarborough High School students about what might have triggered the incident.

“I have heard different speculation about who did what,” he said. “It’s always difficult to figure out what is happening in the world of high school students and adolescents. We’re trying to figure out what happened here and why.”

Warren said he spoke with Drew and Maura Gwyer, Matt’s parents, and they were very sympathetic toward the Gliddens and bear them no hostility.

“Mr. Glidden did nothing to bring this heinous crime on himself,” Warren said. “These are two good families.”

He said the Gwyers supported the request for a psychological exam because it might help explain their son’s behavior.

Matthew Gwyer was arrested Friday after police received a report of a suspicious vehicle in the driveway of a home on Pleasant Hill Road.

An officer responding to the report pulled the car over, police said. They found Gwyer and a 9 mm handgun.

Prosecutors would not say where Gwyer obtained the 9 mm pistol he is accused of using in the shooting, though Warren pointed out that Gwyer is not charged with obtaining it illegally.

State law doesn’t prohibit a person younger than 18 from possessing a handgun, though federal law does, said Assistant District Attorney Christine Thibeault, head of the county’s juvenile prosecution division.

Federal law allows for certain exceptions, including if the juvenile has prior written consent from a parent or guardian and is using the handgun for target practice, hunting or a gun safety course; is a member of the military; or is using it for protection during a home invasion.

While some underclassmen at the high school said the shooting hadn’t been discussed much, seniors who know the people involved said it was a topic of intense discussion.

Some students said they learned last week, before it became public, that Gwyer might be involved in the incident. The news came as students were completing midterms, and the situation added to the anxiety, said Molly LeComte, a senior.

“It’s pretty stressful. We’re trying to get back to normal,” she said. “I think there are a lot of questions the faculty isn’t really answering.”

Students said the school did make an announcement about the incident Tuesday, urging any student who had concerns about it to contact the guidance office.

The school is limited in what it can say because of confidentiality rules.

A release last week on the high school’s website from Superintendent George Entwistle III said the incident is being handled by the Scarborough Police Department.

“The Scarborough School Department and Department of Public Safety cooperate closely on any matter involving children in the town of Scarborough,” the statement said. “In doing so in this case, we can assure the community that the safety of our students and staff at school continues to be our top priority and uncompromised.”

Matthew Gwyer is next due to appear in court March 24, two days before his 18th birthday.

 

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CLARIFICATION: This story was updated on Jan. 27 at 2:30 p.m. to clarify state and federal laws on gun possession by juveniles.