The family of a 13-year-old boy accused of shooting a classmate and a teacher at a suburban Indianapolis middle school said they are “still in shock” from the attack and are thinking of the victims, students, school staff and others shaken by the shooting.
A law firm representing the boy issued their statement after prosecutors said late Tuesday that the suspect would not be tried as an adult in the May 25 shooting.
In the statement, the family requested privacy, while acknowledging there are many lingering questions about the shooting at Noblesville West Middle School, including where the boy got the handgun used in the attack and a second handgun that was found in his possession.
“We understand the public has unanswered questions at this time. We will await the outcome of the investigation and judicial process before speaking publicly about these events,” the Eskew Law firm said in the statement.
The statement adds that, “Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to those involved” including shooting victims 13-year-old Ella Whistler and science teacher Jason Seaman.
Whistler’s family said Monday that she remains hospitalized and faces a lengthy recovery after being shot seven times, including in her face, neck and upper chest. She also suffered collapsed lungs, significant nerve damage and several broken bones.
Science teacher Jason Seaman was shot as he tackled the shooter, but he was released from a hospital the next day.
A delinquency petition that prosecutors filed Tuesday against the suspect shows that he allegedly used a .22-caliber handgun in the shooting and also had a .45-caliber handgun and a knife in his possession.
Police had previously said the suspect had asked to be excused from class and then returned to Seaman’s classroom with two handguns and began shooting in the school about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Indianapolis.
The suspect is scheduled to appear in juvenile court June 11.
Hamilton County Prosecutor D. Lee Buckingham said in a statement Tuesday night that the boy would have faced 11 counts in adult court, including attempted murder and aggravated battery. He said the teen’s case cannot be heard in adult court because under current Indiana law a child of 13 can only be waived to adult court if that youngster’s alleged attempt to commit murder “is actually successful.”
Buckingham said that “due to the heroic and extraordinary efforts of many people” both Whistler and Seaman both survived.
“This blessing results in this matter remaining in the juvenile justice system under our current laws, a result which will, I am sure, be very troubling and unsatisfying for many people,” Hamilton said.
Buckingham said someone as young as 12 can be tried as an adult for murder, but the statute has been interpreted to not include attempted murder.
If he’s convicted in the Noblesville shooting case the boy could held at the state’s detention center for juveniles until he’s 21, although typically juveniles are released when they turn 18, said Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council.
The boy could also be ordered to spend time in a mental health treatment center, Landis said, adding that he’s frustrated when people demand tough sentences for juveniles when the full story behind their actions is not known.
“When a high-profile and horrendous act like this happens people are rushing to judgment about punishment — what’s the appropriate sanction — instead of asking the questions of: Why would a 13-year-old boy do what this kid allegedly did? What do we know about him? What do we know about his history? What do we know about his mental state, his emotional state? Is there any drug use involved?” he said.
“Let’s try to understand before we seek to punish.”