Hearing day 2: Teen school shooting suspect researched Columbine shooting

A hearing for a South Carolina teenager, charged with killing his father at their home and a first-grader on a school playground, began Monday in an Anderson County courtroom. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

A hearing for a South Carolina teenager charged with killing his father at their home and a first-grader on a school playground, began Monday in an Anderson County courtroom.

The teen is accused of killing his father before traveling to Townville Elementary School and shooting at the children and staff there.

One child, 6-year-old Jacob Hall, was shot in the leg and later died of his injuries.

The hearing is to determine if the boy, who turned 14 shortly before the September 28, 2016, killings, will be tried as an adult.

He faces two counts of murder, among other charges.

Prosecutors want him tried as an adult, where he could face decades in prison if convicted. His attorneys want him tried as a juvenile, where he could be held only until his 21st birthday if found guilty.


On Tuesday, Townville Elementary Principal Denise Fredericks became emotional when she answered the state's questions about the day of the shooting.

She said she and a teacher recognized the alleged shooter as a former student.

"It was shocking, and immediately I start thinking 'He's been here. He knows where our kids are. He knows how we drill.'" Fredericks said.

She said the defendant had been a student at Townville Elementary years before the shooting, saying he was a good student and well-mannered kid. "He actually thrived academically," she said.

She said "things have changed" since the shooting, and it's still something she and her colleagues deal with on a daily basis.


On the stand Monday, deputies and detectives who responded to Townville Elementary School recounted a terrifying scene.

Justin Brown, a deputy with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, told the court and judge what happened when he was dispatched to the school.

"When we were inside the school we saw the gun that was used on the playground," he said. "We witnessed one victim being held by a teacher, we stepped over them, until more units arrived for the school search.”

Brown and other members of law enforcement went on to say the defendant never asked for a parent or lawyer when he was questioned. Officials say he was crying and apologizing for much of the time.

In a statement recorded hours after the shootings during questioning, the teen can be heard saying he was angry with his father for questioning his spending and homework.

He also said on videotape he put the wrong ammunition in the gun before heading to the school.

The teen didn't give direct answers to detectives' questions about a motive in the school shooting, beyond that Townville was the first school he attended and nobody liked him.

But he said that after the gun jammed again on his fourth shot, he had a revelation.

"Once I finally figured out I was going to hell for this, I threw the gun away," the teen said on tape.

The boy said he had researched the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. He also said on the videotape that he belonged to an Instagram group of about a half-dozen other teens who discussed if they could all go out and shoot up a school on the same day.

Authorities have never discussed if the group existed or if others were arrested.

Defense attorneys on Monday questioned each of the four detectives who testified about whether the teen knew his rights, or could even be questioned at his age without a parent or an attorney present.

The Family Court judge ruled against them.

Besides the murder counts, the teenager is charged with three counts of attempted murder and five counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

The teen told detectives he had been bullied much of his life and started homeschooling after he was caught with a machete and a hatchet at his middle school. His parents started having such loud, angry drunken arguments that he was locking himself in his room, he said, according to the video.