LONG BEACH (CBS) — A Gardena High School student who allegedly brought a gun to campus that discharged while in his backpack, injuring two students, made his initial appearance in a Long Beach courtroom Friday, but a decision was still pending on whether he will be tried as a juvenile or an adult.
The 17-year-old boy, who already is on probation for a misdemeanor battery charge, was charged Thursday with one count each of possessing and discharging a firearm in a school zone.
The teen, whose name was withheld because of his age, will be back in court Feb. 18, when a date is expected to be set for a hearing to determine if he will be tried as an adult or a juvenile. Prosecutors want him tried as an adult.
If his case remains in juvenile court, the boy faces a maximum sentence of nine months in a juvenile camp. If he is tried as an adult, he faces up to seven years in prison, according to Jane Robison of the District Attorney’s Office.
Outside court, the teen’s court-appointed attorney stressed that the boy is not charged with shooting anyone.
“The minor has not been charged with intentionally shooting anybody,” Jack Fuller told reporters gathered outside the courthouse. “He is charged with bringing a weapon onto school grounds.”
Members of the teen’s family refused to comment as they left the courthouse.
According to police and prosecutors, the boy carried a loaded 9-mm Beretta in his backpack to school on Tuesday. The gun fired a single bullet at 10:40 a.m. when he reached inside the backpack, apparently to get something to eat, while in a classroom, authorities said.
The bullet struck a 15-year-old boy in the neck, then hit a 15-year-old girl in the head. The boy was released Wednesday from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, but the girl remains hospitalized in critical condition.
The 17-year-old boy fled into another classroom, where he was captured during an intensive search of the campus.
Two other students — a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy — were arrested for allegedly helping the boy escape, but prosecutors declined to file charges against them, citing insufficient evidence.
Sources told the Los Angeles Times that in the chaos after the mid-morning shooting, the suspect gave his backpack to a girl and that another boy provided him with a sweatshirt to change his appearance. One of the suspects also was suspected of giving him money for bus fare to flee the area.
Police said the backpack has not been located.
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