ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — A 12-year-old boy accused of opening fire in a Roswell middle school gym pleaded no contest Friday to charges stemming from the shooting that injured two students.
Attorneys for the boy said in court that he takes full responsibility for the shooting and apologizes to the victims' families. While changing his plea to "no contest," the boy calmly answered "yes" as Judge Freddie Romero questioned him about whether he understood what the plea change meant, and if the boy understood that he was giving up his Constitutional rights by changing his plea.
Roswell police said the boy took a modified shotgun to Berrendo Middle School on Jan. 14 and opened fire on students as they waited for classes to begin.
Nathaniel Tavarez, 12, and Kendal Sanders, 13, were injured in the shooting that sent the school in this southeastern New Mexico city in a panic. Tavarez spent weeks in hospitals and rehabilitation centers for treatment of wounds to his chest, heart, face and head. His vision in both eyes has been severely diminished.
Sanders was later released from a hospital after surgeries to repair damage to her right arm and shoulder.
The boy was charged with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and one count of carrying a firearm on school premises.
Attorneys for the boy, Jason Bowles and Bob Gorence, said in a statement after the hearing that the no-contest pleading "acknowledges the limitations in decision-making of an immature brain," and it "will maximize all options for Nathaniel and Kendal in the process."
Nickie Portio, mother of Kendal, and her attorney, Tamara Brock Segal, from the law firm Brock & Goetzmann of Dallas, said no civil lawsuit has been filed by them yet.
"Kendal had to have surgery to repair her heart, and she still has pellets in her body," her attorney told the Roswell Daily Record (http://goo.gl/P2rmJQ).
Portio said she accepts the boy's apology, but added that he needs to be incarcerated. "He did commit a crime, and he needs to feel the consequences of his actions," she said.
Sentencing is set for July 2. As a juvenile, he faces possible detention until he's 21 years old.
Special Prosecutor Matt Chandler said the state would seek the maximum punishment for the boy.
Under New Mexico law, the state can charge minors as adults only if they are at least 14.
The Associated Press typically doesn't identify juveniles charged with crimes.