The woman arrested with a loaded pistol outside a downtown private school Monday was trying to kill people, but she couldn’t get the gun to fire, according to Charleston police.

Alice Boland, a 28-year-old Beaufort woman with a history of mental illness, was arrested at Ashley Hall on Rutledge Avenue.

Boland pointed a gun at two staff members who confronted her at the wrought-iron fence surrounding the school and repeatedly pulled the trigger, according to a police affidavit. The gun didn’t fire and nobody was hurt.

“There’s no doubt in our minds, based on our investigation, that woman went there to kill people,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said Tuesday.

In a rambling statement in bond court Tuesday, Boland said she went to the school because “I wanted to make a political demonstration about problems in my life relating to the fact that racist feminists, including institutions like that where I was demonstrating ... have been causing me these alleged mental problems ever since I met a lesbian professor.”

Her speech became unintelligible at that point, and it wasn’t clear if she was referring to a teacher at Ashley Hall or elsewhere. She said she has been denied entrance into schools “because of my alleged mental problems.”

Her mother told the judge that she had power of attorney regarding her daughter because of her mental illness. “She is considered an incompetent child,” she said.

Boland asked why she is charged with attempted murder, considering the gun didn’t fire.

“It didn’t even work,” Boland said, her voice rising in obvious agitation. “It wasn’t even capable of firing. It could not fire one shot. It didn’t work at all. It was defective.”

Magistrate Linda Lombard said any time somebody points a loaded gun at somebody and pulls the trigger, it is attempted murder. She set Boland’s total bail at $900,000 on charges of attempted murder, two counts of pointing a firearm, unlawful carrying of a firearm and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

It was not the first time Boland has been accused of causing trouble at Ashley Hall. Police were called there two years ago because of a report that Boland was harassing students and acting suspiciously.

Here’s what happened Monday, according to police reports and affidavits:

About 50 students and school officials were standing outside the gate on Rutledge Avenue waiting for parents to pick up children. Boland walked up to Mary Schweers, director of the upper school, pointed a Taurus PT22 with eight rounds in the magazine at her and pulled the trigger several times.

The .22-caliber didn’t fire. The semi-automatic has a capacity of nine rounds, but there was no cartridge in the chamber.

Boland also stood in front of teacher Chris Hughes and pointed the gun at her. Then she waved the gun around and pointed it toward the ground, pulling the trigger several times trying to make it fire.

School officials ordered the students back inside, locked the gate and called police.

Officers arrived a few minutes later and told the woman to drop the gun and get on the ground, according to an incident report. Boland dropped the firearm and asked police if they wanted her to do some push-ups, the report states.

Investigators did not say how Boland might have obtained the gun.

“We are still investigating that aspect of the case, and we aren’t ready to discuss that yet,” police spokesman Charles Francis said.

Boland sought treatment from a psychologist’s office near the school in the past, according to police. Officers said they found her GMC Jimmy parked near that office on Monday.

Officials searched the school’s records but could not find any connection between Boland and Ashley Hall, Head of School Jill Muti said Tuesday in a statement to parents and faculty.

“To the best of our knowledge, she was not targeting any specific person,” Muti said in the statement. “All of our current information points towards this being a random incident.”

This was not Boland’s first arrest.

In August 2010, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office charged Boland with third-degree assault and battery, State Law Enforcement Division records show.

Christina Elmore and Glenn Smith contributed to this report. Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.