NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — A 15-year-old boy pleaded guilty Friday to malicious wounding in a shooting that injured two students at a Virginia high school in September.
The teen pleaded guilty to two counts of malicious wounding and four gun charges in the shooting that prompted panicking students at Heritage High School to run for the exits and barricade themselves in classrooms, The Daily Press reported. The teen did not have a plea agreement.
An argument spilled out of the cafeteria and into the school hallway when a 17-year-old punched the teen in the face and the teen pulled out a gun, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Travis White said. There were about 100 students in the hallway at the time, court documents said.
A history teacher tried to break up the fight and saw the teen pull out the gun, White said.
“He attempted to get the other students out of the way,” White said of the teacher. “Frankly, I’m surprised he wasn’t shot himself.”
The teen fired multiple shots in the hallway, White said, striking the 17-year-old in the head, leg and finger. A 17-year-old girl was also struck in the leg.
“Both students survived, and both are recovering,” White said, noting they are out of the hospital.
Court documents state the teen ditched his handgun in a trash can as he fled the school and ran home. A relative took him to surrender to authorities. He was given a Miranda warning, then gave a statement to police with his mother present.
“He admitted that he shot the gun after a physical altercation,” White said.
The shooting took place less than two weeks into the school year, as Newport News students returned to in-person classes after pandemic lockdowns. The school was closed for more than a month after the Sept. 20 shooting.
Before Friday’s hearing, prosecutors reduced an aggravated malicious wounding to malicious wounding, reducing the possible sentence for the charge from life in prison to 20 years. The change was based on improvement to the girl’s leg wound, White said.
The teen faces up to 65 years behind bars at sentencing Aug. 5 .