Lamar High School shooting jurors watch video of killing, hear from surviving victim

The teenager who shot and killed another student at Lamar High School in Arlington on March 20 raised himself, his defense attorneys told jurors in opening statements at his disposition, or sentencing, trial Tuesday in Tarrant County Juvenile Court.

After Tarrant County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Lee Sorrells told jurors that prosecutors are asking for the 40-year maximum sentence for a juvenile who has been found guilty of capital murder, defense attorney Frank Adler said the defense would not be asking for the minimum sentence of no punishment.

“He deserves to be punished,” Adler told the jurors. “And it’s a big ask that we’re asking the 12 of you to punish him.”

Both Sorrells and Adler agreed that video and photo evidence that will be presented to jurors throughout the trial would be hard to watch.

“There’s nothing more terrible or terrifying for a kid than sitting there at a school, and then getting shot,” Sorrells said. “Getting killed.”

Ja’Shawn Poirier, 16, was fatally shot and another student was wounded. The shooter, who was 15 at the time of the killing, pleaded “true,” or guilty, last week to one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted capital murder.

A memorial was held at Lamar High School on April 28, 2023, honoring Ja’Shawn Poirier. He was fatally shot outside of the school on March 20, 2023.
A memorial was held at Lamar High School on April 28, 2023, honoring Ja’Shawn Poirier. He was fatally shot outside of the school on March 20, 2023.

After opening statements Tuesday for the sentencing, Sorrells called the teenage girl who survived the shooting but was wounded and scarred to the witness stand. He then showed the jury a video of the morning of the shooting. In the video, students sitting on the steps outside the school before classes started the morning of March 20 are seen fleeing after shots are fired.

In another angle of the video, jurors could see clearly Poirier collapse and then remain on the ground after the shots were fired.

The injured girl testified that she hid behind a pillar with a large group of other students, seeking safety, but shrapnel from the gunman’s shotgun hit her in the face.

The teen who committed the shooting came into court Tuesday wearing his corrections uniform, leading to advice from Juvenile Court Judge Alex Kim’s that he should consider wearing “civilian clothes.” The judge made sure the teen knew about his right to wear civilian clothing and asked a series of questions about why he was wearing the beige uniform issued by the jail, to which he responded that it was voluntary.

The judge also told the teen he had a right to change into civilian clothes during any normal break before further warning him that the clothes he decides to wear could impact the way the jury views him, saying it could create sympathy or cast him in a negative light.

An Arlington police officer was called to the stand to tell jurors about how he was responding to the scene when he saw the teen who committed the shooting. When the shooter, walking near the intersection of Lamar Boulevard and Cooper Street, saw the officer turning around to stop him, he began running, the officer testified.

As he ran, the officer said, the teen dropped the backpack he was carrying which contained the shotgun used in the killing.

Attorneys for the defense did not ask any cross-examination questions before the court recessed for a mid-morning break around 10:30 a.m.

The trial is expected to run through Thursday.

On Monday, attorneys for the state and defense questioned potential jurors about their backgrounds, their biases, and whether they could ever imagine themselves handing up the maximum sentence of 40 years or the minimum sentence of no disposition, meaning no time on probation or behind bars.

During jury selection before the panel was reduced to the final 12 jurors and two alternates, at least nine of the potential jurors told Kim they didn’t think they could be fair and impartial, or only consider evidence presented in court during jury deliberations, because of news coverage they’d read or heard or news they knew about secondhand before the trial.

The case has been high profile since the shooting happened in March, along with other shootings at schools in Tarrant County in recent months and years.

Threats of shootings continued at the start of the new school year in the Fort Worth area, like on Sept. 8 when authorities say a 15-year-old made a threat on social media that led to a lockdown at Western Hills High School. That teen has been charged with making a terroristic threat.

Another student was arrested in August after making threats against Arlington schools. Police investigated each incident but said no credible threats were found.

And earlier this year, Timothy Simpkins, 19, was sentenced to 12 years in prison and a $6,000 fine for attempted capital murder at Timberview High School in Mansfield. That shooting happened in October 2021.