Teen charged in Magrduer High School shooting will be prosecuted an adult


Placeholder while article actions load

A 17-year-old accused of shooting and nearly killing a classmate inside a bathroom at Maryland’s Magruder High School will be prosecuted in the adult court system, a judge ruled Thursday while rejecting the teen’s request for transfer to the juvenile system.

The judge’s decision means that Steven Alston Jr., who will turn 18 in August, faces a possible lengthy sentence in the state’s adult prison system if he is convicted. Had he been moved to the state’s juvenile system, Alston could have been released within a year.

“Mr. Alston displayed very adultlike behavior,” said Montgomery Circuit Judge David Boynton, describing what he said was a planned, premeditated assault. “Mr. Alston clearly poses a danger to the community.”

Alston is accused of obtaining handgun parts online, putting them together for his own “ghost gun,” bringing it to school and shooting DeAndre Thomas, 15, in the pelvis. The victim spent 52 days in the hospital and has undergone nine operations, with another one scheduled, according to hearing testimony.

Magruder High shooting victim inches to recovery as court docs describe suspect

“It was only through the result of a very complex medical intervention that saved his life,” Boynton said.

The judge’s decision followed an all-day hearing Monday that revealed new details about the Jan. 21 shooting: how Alston allegedly wandered the halls for 14 minutes before ducking into a classroom — all while armed with a concealed gun and a loaded magazine — as the school went into lockdown. Detectives determined him to be the alleged shooter in large part when an assistant principal working with them noted a social media post on her phone. It stated: “Steven shot ‘Dre.” He was arrested about two hours after the shooting when a SWAT team burst into the classroom he’d ducked into. Alston’s movements and the arrest were captured on surveillance video and police body-camera video, which were played in court.

“Hands up! Hands up!” the tactical officers shouted, before moving in on Alston and quickly knocking him to the ground.

Other students in the class began to cry.

“I didn’t do anything!” Alston yelled.

In seeking the transfer to the juvenile system, Alston’s attorney, David Felsen, argued that his client had never been in trouble before, had been threatened by DeAndre and his friends, and had thought the gun would protect him. Once in the bathroom, Felsen said, there was a fight over the gun and it accidentally went off.

The attorney acknowledged that in bringing the gun to school, “clearly, a young man made a horrible choice,” but stressed that Alston was eager for the kind of treatment and rehabilitation programs geared toward teenagers in the state’s juvenile system.

“This is a young man who has a chance at doing the right things, and receiving the right services, so that the court makes sure there is no recidivism in this case,” Felsen said.

But prosecutors had presented the attack as more planned — consistent with them recently securing an enhanced charged against Alston of first-degree, premeditated attempted murder. The move, they said, reflected the victim’s recent statement to investigators, which had been delayed because of his medical condition. In that statement, according to the prosecutors, DeAndre said that Alston pointed a gun at him and that he grabbed at it, but that Alston pulled it back to gain control.

“It was at that point in time that that young man raised the gun and fired it,” Assistant State’s Attorney Donna Fenton said during the earlier hearing.

The midday shooting at Magruder, a school of 1,600 students in the heart of one of the state’s top-performing school districts, shocked residents of Montgomery County. As the school went into lockdown, terrified parents rushed over to learn if their kids were safe.

In the earlier hearing, an audio recording was played of the recent interview between investigators and DeAndre, the victim. He told them that during the months before the shooting, he and Alston began “talking trash to each other,” which led to a series of fistfights. “Just punching each other,” DeAndre said.

On Jan. 21, DeAndre said, the two had agreed to meet in the bathroom for what DeAndre thought was going to be another fistfight. Alston walked in.

“Then what happened?” a detective asked, according to the recording.

“I got shot,” DeAndre said.

Asked to provide more details, the teenager said Alston said nothing and pointed the gun, and the two wrestled over the weapon. “I tried to take it,” he said.

Felsen, the defense attorney, argued that fighting over the gun led to it going off. Prosecutors contended that Alston was able to pull it back and then fire.

It was difficult to hear DeAndre’s exact explanation because of the volume level of the recording played in court.

School surveillance video showed Alston leaving the bathroom a short time after he went inside. A school security officer, alerted to commotion in the area, could be seen walking toward the bathroom and passing Alston who by then, prosecutors allege, had concealed his gun.

The security officer did not hear a gunshot, according to authorities, but found the victim injured in the bathroom.

In making their argument that Alston should stay in the adult system, prosecutors told Boynton that, if convicted, he would not have to go to a regular prison with older inmates. Rather, they said, he could go to program at the Patuxent Institution that accepts offenders younger than 21. The program typically take six to seven years to complete, according to testimony.

Felsen countered that there would be no guarantee that Alston would be selected for the program and could end up in a standard prison. The average age of all inmates in the Maryland prison system, a spokesman said this week, is 39.


Source link