California shooting suspect charged
SANTEE, Calif. (AP) – The 15-year-old suspect in a high school shooting spree was charged with two counts of murder Wednesday as hundreds of his fellow students returned to campus to find freshly patched bullet holes and grief counselors in every classroom.
Charles Andrew ”Andy” Williams, accused of killing two and wounding 13 in a hail of small-caliber pistol fire at 1,900-student Santana High School in suburban San Diego, remained silent throughout the brief, nationally televised hearing.
The boy, who has been described by an investigator as ”mad at the world,” wore an orange prison jumpsuit that hung from his thin frame and sat with his head bowed, occasionally looking up through tousled brown bangs at the judge.
Williams didn’t enter a plea, and his arraignment was postponed for two weeks at the request of one of his lawyers, Randy Mize.
Defense attorneys said they plan to challenge Proposition 21, the juvenile justice initiative adopted by voters last year that obligates prosecutors to charge youths as adults for certain serious crimes such as murder.
Previously it was up to a judge to decide whether a juvenile would be charged as an adult.
”If Proposition 21 is unconstitutional, it should be challenged as unconstitutional,” said Steve Carroll, the chief public defender for San Diego County.
Relatives of the two dead Santana students, senior Randy Gordon and freshman Bryan Zuckor, did not attend the hearing in the 49-seat courtroom. The families of the injured were not there and Williams’ father, who has visited him once at Juvenile Hall, was also absent.
Some students from the high school, including three cheerleaders dressed in purple and white sweat suits, attended, watching a television feed in a room three floors down.
”I don’t hate him for what he did,” said cheerleader Courtney Guthaus. ”I just want to know why.”
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Herbert J. Exarhos set arraignment for March 26 and denied bail because of special circumstances – that he was ”lying in wait” – contained in the indictment.
Charges include two counts of murder with special circumstances, 13 counts of premeditated attempted murder and other counts alleging assault with a deadly weapon and firearms possession.
The boy cannot be given the death penalty because of his age, said prosecutor Kristin Anton. If convicted on all charges he could be sentenced to 500 years imprisonment.
The day began bleakly Wednesday for some students when they learned of another shooting in Williamsport, Pa., where an eighth-grade girl allegedly wounded a female classmate at a Roman Catholic school.
”We keep hearing about more things that are happening. It’s crazy,” 15-year-old student Cory Martinez said. ”It’s scary to go to school, but I can’t say I feel safe anywhere right now.”
Santana students spent Wednesday talking with teachers, administrators, counselors and each other. School was to resume at 8 a.m. Thursday with counselors available to students in all classes. About 150 counselors – some of whom worked at Columbine High School after the blood bath there in 1999, were assigned to the school, one to each classroom.
”The first priority will be to begin the healing process,” said Granger Ward, superintendent of the district. ”There’s a lot of anger. There’s a lot of grief. There’s a lot of sadness.”
Bloodstains in the bathroom where the shooting began had been painted over, and bullet holes in the stucco buildings had been patched.
About 85 percent of the students showed up for school, down from 95 percent on a normal day, Ward said. Four of the students who were shot were back in class. Three other victims remained hospitalized, all in good condition.
Morghon Liddel, 15, said he was not ready to return. ”I think it’s too soon. How are we supposed to walk by the bathroom or through the hallway and not think about it?” he said.
Ward said three students who may have known about the defendant’s plans were not allowed to return to class because police and school district officials were still investigating the shooting.
Among them was Vanessa Willis, a 15-year-old neighbor of Williams who said she had heard his threats but thought they were a joke.
When asked if she thought classmates would be mad at her, she said, ”I don’t really care. … I feel bad for everyone that was hurt and everything, but they want to be mad at me. … They don’t know the whole story.”
Gordon, 17, and Zuckor, 14, were killed in Monday’s attack.
Bryan’s mother, Michelle Zuckor, told KFMB-TV in San Diego that she tried to call her son after hearing of the shooting.
”I was on my cell phone. I was trying to call him, but he wouldn’t answer,” she said. ”He was such a loving person. He would always say, ‘I love you, Mom”’
Investigators said Williams was filled with anger when he was arrested and expressed no remorse. Friends have said he was constantly picked on. He was so skinny that some people called him ”Anorexic Andy.”
Williams’ older brother said the boy was used to being teased.
”He has big ears and he’s real skinny,” Michael Williams, 20, a student at the Art Institute of Atlanta, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. ”People like to pick on him. It was like that as long as I could remember.”
The older Williams said he never imagined his brother would shoot anyone.
The image of a rage-filled adolescent shooting classmates perplexed friends and acquaintances who knew Williams as a happy-go-lucky kid in Brunswick, Md., the town of 5,700 where he lived before moving with his father last summer to Southern California. His parents divorced 10 years ago.
Art Fairweather, principal of Brunswick Middle School, said Williams was on the honor roll.
”His grades were always good,” Fairweather said. ”He seemed to have a lot of friends, and he appeared to be well-adjusted.”
Williams was unhappy in California and disliked school. In a videotape he took of himself several months ago and shown Wednesday by the television news magazine ”Inside Edition,” he said: ”My school is horrible. I hate it there. Everyone is all nice to me there ’cause they’re stupid. I really don’t like my school. I wish I lived back in Maryland.”
The video sweeps across a gun cabinet at his home and he refers to it as the ”no trespassing cabinet.”
The gun used in the shooting belonged to Williams’ father, Charles Williams. He told authorities he kept the gun locked in a safe, deputies said Tuesday.
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.