Judge set to make decision in Socastee shooting case

Source: WMBF News Reporter Brandon Herring
Source: WMBF News Reporter Brandon Herring

Conway, SC - CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – A judge says she will announce Friday if a 15-year-old boy will be tried as an adult on attempted murder and explosives charges. Those charges resulted from what Horry County Police say was the boy's plan to shoot and kill the school resource officer and ignite pipe bombs inside Socastee High School in September.

The teen, whose name has not been released by WMBF News because he is still charged as a juvenile, is accused of entering Officer Erik Karney's office on Sept. 21, 2010, and firing a gun. The gun went off as Karney tackled the teen. Gunpowder burned the skin on Karney's temple because the gunfire was so close to his head.

Judge Georgia Anderson has listened to three days of testimony from prosecution and defense witnesses in the case.

On Wednesday, the boy's mother testified. She said her son was picked on by other students, especially beginning in fifth grade.

"Kids were calling him leprechaun and making fun of his red hair, and they were making fun of him because he was the smallest," she said.

The boy's mother said problems continued in sixth and seventh grades at Forrestbrook Middle School. She said she felt like teachers, bus drivers, and school administrators only took action to stop the problems if a fight was involved. She said anything less than a physical confrontation did not get attention from school workers.

"He came to us in sixth grade about a boy who was physically assaulting him, was pushing his head into the lockers, was pushing him in the hallways, would try to trip him up," his mother said.

She went on to say problems continued especially on the school bus in seventh grade, but eighth grade seemed to be a much better year. She said her son's grade improved dramatically, and other students recognized the teenager for his skilled break-dancing at school dances.

"He's like Mom, they really like what I did" she said, recalling her son's words after a school dance. "They came around me and they cheered for me, and he was so excited about that."

The boy's mother said she did not realize he was still harboring hurt feelings from being harassed. She saw no indications that he had been planning a school shooting. During her time on the witness stand she was able to share her feelings about Officer Karney.

"He is a hero," she said through tears, "and he saved my son at a time where he could not have realized [he] was worth saving."

Psychologist Dr. Donna Schwartz-Watts said she was not surprised that the teenager did not show any signs of continued anxiety in eight grade because teens often internalize feelings, and he may have felt like it did not good to continue to speak up about his concerns she said.

Schwartz-Watts said she felt the main causes of the teenager's emotional problems were major depression and a difficult relationship with his father. She mentioned his mother's comments about how the boy always felt inadequate, especially because he was small for his age and not athletic – a contrast from his father.

Schwartz-Watts said since September that father-son relationship has improved dramatically, and she felt that would go a long way in helping him overcome emotional problems. She also said the boy could be successfully treated for depression.

During Wednesday morning's testimony, Nancy Granchelli, an intake manager with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), took the stand and stated the teen has gotten into trouble while in custody, including an assault on another juvenile.

According to Granchelli, the teen wrote at least one violent rap song, which included lyrics such as "click, clack, repeat, and I'll shoot you on the beat."

Additionally, Granchelli stated the teen wrote letters of remorse, and stated he wanted to apologize to Officer Karney and the public.

Michael Prodan, a behavioral scientist and specialist in threats and violence with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division took the stand next, stating the teen apparently felt his only option to alleviate bullying or other feelings was to carry out a school shooting.

Prodan never spoke to the defendant, but he examined what the boy said to police, what the medical examiner observed, and what the boy wrote in journals. He later said the teen wrote about the Virginia Tech and Columbine shootings, and said the teen claimed the Virginia Tech shootings were "boring" and the Columbine High School shootings more exciting because the two gunmen at that school used more weapons and traveled around the school on a rampage.

Prodan also gave his opinion about the teen's motivation for planning his own school shooting.

"Fame, notoriety, significance, power, control, revenge - all of those things can come into play." Prodan said.

He also said he believes the teen wanted to kill as many people as possible, and would have if not for Karney. Prodan said he is skeptical of the defendant's letters of remorse.

A psychologist who has worked with the teen in DJJ custody disputed Prodan. Dr. Julian Sharman said the boy did not want to be the center of attention but he did want to bring attention to bullying after years of being picked on by other students.

"I believe there was remorse there," Sharman added.

WMBF News Reporter Brandon Herring has been in the court room during testimony. For an outline of what was said in court, read Brandon's tweets by clicking here.

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