Arraignment for alleged school shooter postponed
EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) – An 18-year-old student accused of opening fire at his high school last week told a judge through a shattered jaw pleaded innocent Monday to charges of attempted murder and assault.
The arraignment of another teen accused in an earlier, fatal school shooting was postponed.
Jason Hoffman, whose jaw was shattered when he was shot by a police officer Thursday, bowed his head and held a cloth to his face during the brief court appearance. He mumbled his plea without looking at Superior Court Judge Herbert Exarhos.
The Granite Hills High School senior is charged with attempted murder and five counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Police say Hoffman sought to kill a vice principal, who escaped harm. Five people were wounded in the attack.
He could face from 44 years to life in prison if convicted. Exarhos ordered Hoffman held without bond pending a May 10 preliminary hearing.
Public defender William Trainor said his client ”is very emotionally upset about the events of the last few days.”
Hoffman’s mother, Denise Marquez, sat in court. She did not speak to reporters. Trainor said she feels remorse for the shootings, but cannot explain what may have motivated her son.
Earlier Monday, Exarhos presided over a hearing for Andy Williams, who is accused of murdering two classmates and wounding 13 people in a March 5 shooting spree at Santana High School, in nearby Santee. The hearing had been scheduled as an arraignment, but that was postponed when Williams’ lawyer said he planned to challenge the law under which Williams is being charged as an adult.
The slightly built boy cast his eyes downward for most of the brief court appearance. His parents, who are divorced, sat side by side in the front row and his mother broke into tears upon seeing Williams.
Williams is accused of murdering two classmates and wounding 13 other people in the March 5 shooting spree at Santana High School in Santee.
Under Proposition 21, a California law approved by voters last year, Williams automatically was sent to adult court for trial on two counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder, among other charges, which could send him to prison for life.
If Williams were to be convicted as a juvenile, he would face a minimum of 10 years in a youth facility.
”Proposition 21 has created laws that are, frankly, unconstitutional. We believe the adult criminal system has no constitutional jurisdiction over this juvenile matter,” public defender Randy Mize said.
Exarhos set a Friday deadline for Mize to file papers challenging the law. A hearing on the matter was scheduled for April 20.
Williams has yet to enter a plea. Wearing an oversized, orange prison jumpsuit, the boy with tousled brown hair sat silently in court.
Outside, relatives of one of the victims, Bryan Zuckor, expressed their opposition to moving the trial to juvenile court.
”The killer in this double murder, whether young or old, is not the victim. The true victims are Bryan and Randy (Gordon), who were murdered and the 13 schoolmates who were wounded,” Bryan’s aunt, Carol Lynn Briens, read from a statement.
Meanwhile, students returned to Granite Hills High on Monday for the first day of classes since the shooting there Thursday.
Parents accompanied many of the students, walking them past patched-up bullet holes and new glass that replaced windows shattered by gun blasts.
Superintendent Granger Ward said 93 percent of the 2,800 students, showed up. He described the mood as one of ”resilience.”
Before class, several hundred students milled about in the courtyard in front of the school, where the shooting took place.
Derek Haynes, a 17-year-old junior, rode up on a skateboard wearing a bright orange Hawaiian shirt, headphones and dark sunglasses under overcast skies. But his casual demeanor covered concern.
”There’s just a real uneasy feeling. I don’t feel safe at school anymore,” he said.
Students began classes in fifth period, the hour that was disrupted by the shooting. More than 150 crisis counselors were posted in classrooms to talk about the violence and guide students on how to cope with it.
For 16-year-old junior Michelle Schreiber, it was anything but a normal school day.
”It kind of felt like there was something missing,” she said. ”It felt like our spirit was gone. It felt like it just went away.”
Associated Press Writer Seth Hettena contributed to this report.
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