The teenager who shot and killed a child on a South Carolina school yard cried and apologized afterward and said it was a good thing his gun jammed before he could shoot more children, a detective testified Monday.
Anderson County Detective Ronald Wood’s comments Monday came during a hearing to determine whether the teenager, who faces two murder charges in the deaths of his father and an elementary school student, will be tried as a juvenile or an adult.
Defense attorneys spent Monday morning arguing that the teen’s rights were violated because investigators did not expressly tell the boy that he could talk to his mother or an attorney before he confessed.
The teenager was 14 years old in September 2016 when authorities say he shot his 47-year-old father at home and then drove to Townville Elementary School and started shooting at first-graders on a playground. One boy died, and a teacher and another student were wounded.
“Good thing my gun jammed or I would have shot more,” Wood quoted the teenager as saying as he was put in the back of a police vehicle.
Wood told defense attorneys that the boy’s grandfather — who rushed to the school after his grandson called him to say he killed his father — told officers the teen stayed in his room all the time because his parents were drunk and he was being homeschooled because he was being bullied.
Defense attorneys at Monday’s hearing questioned each of the four detectives who testified about whether the teen knew his rights.
Anderson County Sheriff’s Detective Tracy Hall said the suspect was polite and not extremely emotional, but appeared to understand him as he told him he had the right to speak or not speak about what happened that day.
However, defense attorney Rame Campbell said detectives never specifically told the teenager that he could talk to a parent or lawyer. Fourteen-year-olds need to be treated differently, said defense attorney Rame Campbell, pointing out he can’t do typical adult things like vote or serve in the military.
Campbell, reading a transcript of the police interview, quoted Hall as saying: “If you want to talk, we’ll listen. If you don’t, it is what it is.”
Monday’s hearing is to determine whether the now 15-year-old boy is tried as an adult for the killings of his 47-year-old father and 6-year-old Jacob Hall at the school.
If tried as a juvenile, the boy can only stay behind bars until he is 21. If convicted of murder as an adult, he could face decades in prison.
The Associated Press is not using the defendant’s name because he has not been charged as an adult, but testimony at the hearing could shed some light on the chain of events that led to the shootings. The hearing could last several days.
Along with two counts of murder, the teenager is charged with three counts of attempted murder and five counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
Calls to 911 suggest the carnage could have been worse. A teacher told the emergency operator the teen was standing just 5 feet (1.5 meters) from the first-graders as they tried to get back in the school, but didn’t fire or try to force his way inside.
“When she was trying to get all the children in, he was standing right behind the kids, and he just threw his arms up and he was saying, he gave up, he gave up,” the caller said.