Gardena High School shooting suspect faces two felony counts; 2 others not charged

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Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

People gather at the entrance to Gardena High School on Jan. 18, 2011 after two students were shot when a gun in a backpack went off in a classroom. The student who brought the gun has been charged with two felony counts.

A Gardena High School student who allegedly brought a gun to campus that discharged while in his backpack, injuring two students, was charged today with two felony counts, and prosecutors will ask that he be tried as an adult.

The 17-year-old boy, who is already on probation for a misdemeanor battery charge, was charged with one count each of possessing a firearm in a school zone and discharging a firearm in a school zone.

The teen, whose name was withheld because of his age, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Long Beach Juvenile Court.

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.

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 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 today to file charges against them. Robison cited 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 was also suspected of giving him money for bus fare to flee the area.

Police said the backpack has not been located.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Los Angeles Unified School District Deputy Superintendent John Deasy said the district would conduct an assessment
of all its high schools to ensure security procedures are being enforced.

“Since 1993, a Los Angeles Unified School District policy has required
daily random searches for weapons at high schools,” Deasy said. “I have
ordered that Gardena High School and all LAUSD high schools must comply with
that policy.”

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