Officials on Wednesday, January 15 said the 16-year-old boy who was found hiding behind a dumpster hours after shooting his teen friend dead in Bellaire High School, Texas, had no intention to kill.
Lt Greg Bartlett of the Bellaire Police School said the two were in the school's ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) room with four other students on Tuesday when the 16-year-old pulled a semi-automatic pistol from his waistband and pulled the trigger. The victim, Cesar Cortes, 19, was rushed to the hospital but was later pronounced dead.
A 911 call about a shooting in the high school was reported at 4 pm. The caller told the emergency assistant that a student was shot and the shooter had fled from the scene.
The teen suspect whose name hasn't been released was found three and a half hours later by authorities hiding outside a convenience store's dumpster near Chimney Rock Road. He was charged with manslaughter as a minor, the Harris County District Attorney's Office said.
District Attorney Kim Ogg said the recovered evidence indicates the shooting was likely unintentional and were not fighting before the shooting.
Stating that the students were part of the school's ROTC program and were friends Ogg said, "Pulling a trigger on a gun, whether you know if it's loaded or not, is an intentional act. But he did not, based on the evidence we have right now, intend to kill his friend."
Despite the District Attorney office maintaining the incident as a mistake, Lt Bartlett said the shooter confessed to other students but isn't answering questions or cooperating with the police investigation. Bartlett said the suspect has been calm, hasn't shown any remorse, according to the Associated Press.
The murder weapon which was brought by the suspect hasn't been found. Police confirmed the gun wasn't school property not issued by the ROTC.
Describing the student as a "regular kid" who is now "a violent offender," Ogg said, "Whether he meant to be violent or not, he killed somebody. And that somebody was a son, and a student, and a friend, and it's our community's collective loss."
Classes were cancelled on Wednesday by the district administration. However, the superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, Grenita Lathan released a statement that the school will be open on Thursday with additional police officers patrolling the school campus.
Increasing gun violence in school
Mayor Sylvester Turner condemned the incident in a statement that said, "A learning environment is the last place where young people should feel unsafe and in fear of their lives. Yet gun violence continues to disrupt schools and destroy families across the country. I extend my deepest condolences to the young man's loved ones and all students, teachers and staff at Bellaire High school."
Regarding the need for gun control laws, Turner said he supports the cause and is willing to coordinate with government officials. "I will continue to work with elected officials at the state and federal level, along with advocacy groups and all people who are ready to enact laws to protect our children," he was quoted as saying.