FARMINGTON — A 15-year-old who pleaded guilty to bringing two guns to school and firing one round into the ceiling of a Mueller Park Junior High School classroom was sentenced to spend time in a Juvenile Justice Services facility.
At the sentencing hearing Thursday, Feb. 23, defense attorney Lindsay Jarvis said based on the teen’s record, she doesn’t expect him to be in the facility for more than a year.
Juvenile Judge Janice Frost said the length of the teen’s stay at the facility will depend on his cooperation and willingness to get treatment.
“We don’t act in isolation,” Frost said to the teen during the hearing. “Our actions affect other people, and it’s important for you to take responsibility for that.”
The teen pleaded guilty in 2nd District Court on Monday, Feb. 13, to shooting toward a building, a third-degree felony; and theft of a firearm, a second-degree felony.
The Standard-Examiner does not identify criminal suspects who are minors.
Jarvis said her client obtained a weapon from his home Wednesday, Nov. 30, took it to Mueller Park the next day and fired one round into the ceiling.
Prosecution attorney Ryan Perkins said the classroom the juvenile fired the gun in wasn’t chosen randomly, but it’s unclear why he picked that room and he did not normally have class there.
There should have been more control of the firearms at home, Perkins said, but there are no plans to pursue legal action against the teen’s parents.
“We don’t have anything that would suggest they made any effort to encourage him,” he said.
Holding back tears, the teenager’s father addressed the judge, saying his son had never intended to hurt anyone other than himself that day at Mueller Park.
The father also apologized to the community.
“We don’t have the words to express how sorry we are,” he said. “We can’t begin to image what you’ve gone through and how you feel.”
Frost said many victim statements painted a different picture, and some at the school are still suffering from nightmares and anxiety.
"What is frightening for most of us is crime is random and unexpected, and we feel powerless to protect ourselves," she said.
In court, Jarvis said the teen had been prescribed and was taking the drug Prozac in the days leading up to the attack. Prozac is often used to treat depression.
Shortly before the incident, the 15-year-old had started seeing Lee Perry, a licensed clinical social worker, who addressed the judge.
Perry said the teenager struggled with handling emotional pain, but he saw the his mood improve after being taken off the drug after his arrest.
“He’s a good kid,” Perry said.
After the hearing, Perkins said the juvenile previously had a desire and willingness to hurt other people. He declined to elaborate further, saying there had been a prior incident in 2014 in Vernal, the town where the family was living at the time.
"We absolutely deny any sort of propensity for violence," Jarvis said after the hearing. "We've said from the beginning he was looking to hurt himself."
At the hearing, courtroom benches were full. Several in attendance got up and spoke in support of the teenager.
Kristie Bridge, a woman who knows the suspect, said he “would never have hurt anybody” and had gone through a lot of “pain and volatility” at home.
“I feel like he was just trying to find a way out of his pain,” Bridge said.
Youth Parole Authority, which is part of JJS, will carry out an assessment of the teenager and based upon it, decide how long he’ll be in the facility and whether he’ll be eligible for parole, Perkins said.
As of Thursday evening, it was not clear which JJS facility the teen will be held in.
Perkins said it’s very rare for anyone to be held in the juvenile system until age 21, but should that happen, he will be transferred into the adult justice system.