SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A 17-year-old who was 15 when he was accused of shooting four classmates in a Washington state school will be tried as an adult, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Caleb Sharpe carefully planned and executed the mass shooting, and should not be released from custody at age 21 as required if he is convicted in juvenile court, Spokane County Superior Judge Michael Price said.
Sharpe is accused of opening fire Sept. 13, 2017, in a hallway of Freeman High School, killing one classmate and wounding three others. Freeman is just south of Spokane.
“Nothing about this was spontaneous,” Price said. “Who can tell the Freeman community this won’t happen again?”
Defense attorney Bevan Maxey had argued the case belonged in juvenile court.
Prosecutors said Sharpe removed his father’s AR-15-style rifle from a gun safe and hid it inside a duffel bag as he rode the bus to school the day of the shooting. The rifle had a full, 30-round magazine, and the duffel bag contained another 140 rounds of ammunition.
Prosecutors say Sharpe also brought a .32-caliber pistol to school. When the rifle jammed, Sharpe is charged with using the pistol to shoot and kill 15-year-old Sam Strahan, and wound three girls in a busy hallway of the school.
In riveting testimony last week, school janitor Joe Bowen told of how he approached Sharpe after the shootings and ordered him to lie on the floor. The youth complied and Bowen pinned him to the floor until help arrived.
Sharpe is charged with one count of aggravated first degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and 51 counts of second-degree assault for all the people put at risk by the shooting.
If convicted as a juvenile, Sharpe would have been released without restrictions at the age of 21. If convicted in adult court, he would remain in a juvenile jail until age 25, and then be transferred to an adult prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. Last year, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that sentencing juveniles to life without parole is unconstitutional.
On Tuesday, the judge spoke for about an hour, explaining the reasons behind his decision.
The first factor was the seriousness of the crime, Price said.
“A child died. Three children were shot,” Price said. “Fifty one other children were victims of second-degree assault.”
No motive has been offered for the shootings.
“No one can completely explain why Caleb Sharpe did this,” the judge said.
Sharpe’s parents sat a few feet behind their son Tuesday, and declined to comment after the decision.
Sharpe, a slight figure with a crewcut, was handcuffed as he entered and left the courtroom. He did not show any emotions.
Price set an Aug. 16 date to arraign Sharpe in adult court.
During the weeklong hearing, defense attorney Maxey argued that his client lacked maturity and good decision-making skills, but had never before caused any problems. He said some doctors contended that Sharpe had suffered brain damage as a child that impaired his judgment.
Maxey said the teen is taking his medications.
“Juvenile court was designed for juveniles,” Maxey said. “There is the ability to rehab Mr. Sharpe.”
Prosecutors argued that Sharpe has not been cooperating or participating in group therapy.
The Associated Press doesn’t typically name juvenile suspects but is doing so because of the severity of the accusations and because Sharpe’s name was released in public documents.
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
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