BENTON, Ky. (AP) - A county prosecutor sought to head off criticism from his traumatized community on Wednesday as he explained why a 15-year-old charged with murder in the shootings of two classmates doesn’t yet face attempted murder charges as well, even though more than a dozen other students have bullet wounds.
Instead, the preliminary charges for wounding the other classmates will be first-degree assault, Assistant Marshall County Attorney Jason Darnall said, stressing at a news conference that it carries the same penalty.
“The reason for that is based on information we have right now. Attempted murder is an offense which takes into account motive and specific intent,” but why he did it is still being investigated. Assault, on the other hand, simply requires a “serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument,” Darnall said.
The young man’s handgun was dangerous enough to kill two classmates, wound 14 other students and seriously injure four more as hundreds of teenagers scrambled to escape. All the victims were between 14 and 18 years old, Kentucky State Police Detective Jody Cash said.
Most ran silently, too stunned to shout. Some dashed into classrooms. Others fled the building, crossing streets and fields and sheltering in nearby businesses.
“No one screamed,” said 16-year-old Alexandria Caporali, recounting the moment her high school became the site of the latest American mass shooting. “It was almost completely silent as people just ran.”
Secret Holt said her daughter Bailey was a “perfect sweet soul.” She also told KFVS that the “horrific act of violence” is “just unbearable” for her family.
Hours after the shooting, Benton residents gathered in a church. They were reminded that God had not forsaken them, and told not to ask “what did anyone do to deserve this?”
Schools were closed county-wide on Wednesday, but elementary and middle schools will reopen Thursday, Superintendent Trent Lovett announced. “Across the nation we’ve been listening to some advice and they think we need to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible,” he explained.
But Lovett said he still can’t say when the high school will reopen.
The case against the suspect will begin in juvenile court, which is closed to the public and the records sealed under Kentucky law. A grand jury will begin considering the evidence in February. Prosecutors will request to move the case to adult court, at which point the details would no longer be secret.
The teen is being held at a regional juvenile jail in Paducah, Kentucky, about a half-hour away, authorities said, and he has been appointed an attorney.