Gun rampage schoolboy 'not well'29/02/2012 - 07:52:36
The teenager accused of killing three pupils in a shooting at a US school cafeteria chose his victims at random and was “someone who’s not well”, a prosecutor said, as the slightly built youngster appeared in court.
TJ Lane, 17, admitted taking a .22-calibre pistol and a knife to Chardon High School in Ohio and firing 10 shots at a group of pupils sitting at a cafeteria table on Monday morning, prosecutor David Joyce said. He said Lane did not know the victims.
He said Lane would probably be charged with three counts of aggravated murder and other offences.
Thin, with short dark hair, Lane seemed small next to the sheriff’s deputies who led him into the juvenile court in Chardon, and said little more than “Yes, sir” in response to questions from the judge.
His face twitched lightly while the prosecutor recounted the attack and he sniffled and half-closed his eyes as he left the court under guard.
Yesterday’s hearing came hours after the death toll rose to three and as schoolmates and townspeople grappled with the tragedy and wondered what could have set off Lane, a young man described by other students as extremely quiet, with few if any friends.
The court appearance did little to solve the mystery. Afterwards, though, the prosecutor appeared to rule out rumours and speculation that the gunman lashed out after being bullied or that the shooting had something to do with drug dealing.
“He chose his victims at random. This is not about bullying. This is not about drugs,” Mr Joyce said.
“This is someone who’s not well, and I’m sure in our court case we’ll prove that to all of your desires and we’ll make sure justice is done here in this county.”
Both sides in the case are under a gagging order imposed by the judge at the prosecutor’s request.
Lane’s grandfather, who has custody of the teenager, and two aunts joined him in court; the women reached over and lightly embraced the grandfather as the hearing began.
Judge Timothy Grendell ordered the boy to be held for at least 15 days. Prosecutors have until today to bring charges against him and are expected to ask that he be tried as an adult. In addition to imposing the gagging order, the judge told the media not to photograph the boy’s face in court.
Meanwhile, shaken residents extended condolences to the families of those killed and wounded at the 1,100-student school, and grief counselling was offered to students, staff and others at area schools.
All three of the dead were pupils, as were the two wounded victims.
“We’re not just any old place, Chardon,” Chardon school superintendent Joseph Bergant said. “This is every place. As you’ve seen in the past, this can happen anywhere, proof of what we had yesterday.”
Demetrius Hewlin, 16, and Russell King, 17, had died. Daniel Parmertor, 16, died shortly after the shooting.
Demetrius attended Chardon High and Russell and Daniel were pupils at the Auburn Career Centre, a vocational school, and were waiting in the Chardon High cafeteria for their daily bus when they were shot.
Lane’s family was mourning “this terrible loss for their community”, Robert Farinacci, a lawyer for Lane, said.
Danny Komertz, 15, who witnessed the shooting, said it appeared that the gunman singled out a group of students sitting together. He said Lane was known as an outcast who had apparently been bullied. But other students disputed that.
Lane did not attend Chardon High but waited there for the bus to Lake Academy, a school for students with academic or behavioural problems. Authorities would not say how and why he ended up at Lake Academy.
The shooting sent youngsters screaming from the building in panic, and some of that chaos and fear was captured in recordings of calls made to police.
“We just had a shooting at our school. We need to get out of here. Oh, my God,” one crying girl caller told a dispatcher.
“Everyone’s running away,” the caller added.
Another caller, a boy, instantly identified the gunman as Thomas Lane and said he appeared to be shooting at random.
“What was his beef with these kids? Do we know?” the dispatcher asked.
“I have no idea,” he said, adding: “He’s very quiet and he doesn’t really talk to anyone.”
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