NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A 15-year-old Heritage High School student was arraigned Tuesday on charges of shooting two fellow students at the school Monday morning.
The Newport News teen appeared by video conference before Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Jeffrey C. Rountree on a slew of felony charges.
That included two counts of aggravated malicious wounding — a crime punishable by life in prison — in the shooting at about 11:38 a.m., setting off a scramble by other students for safety.
Two students — a male and female, both 17 — were shot, with the male hit on the side of the face and the female struck in the leg.
Police said their wounds are not considered life-threatening.
Aside from the aggravated malicious wounding charges, the teen faces nine gun charges.
That includes seven felonies — two counts of using a firearm in a felony, and one count each of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, possession of a firearm on school property, discharging a firearm on school property, discharging in an occupied building, and felony reckless handling.
Moreover, he faces misdemeanor charges of underage possession of a firearm and carrying a concealed handgun without a permit.
It couldn’t be determined Tuesday what jurisdiction the past felony occurred in.
The teen, wearing jail garb and a mask, appeared at the hearing by teleconference from the nearby juvenile detention center.
He sat quietly as Rountree went through a series of rights afforded to him, such as the right to a public trial and the right to remain silent.
Rountree — who referred to the teen as “young man” rather than by his name — asked the teen if he wanted to hire his own lawyer, or have one appointed for him.
When the teen asked that one be appointed, the judge asked about his financial situation.
“Are you working?” Rountree asked. “Do you have a job?”
When the teen said no, Rountree turned to the boy’s mother. Though she is working, the judge quickly determined that she qualifies for court appointed counsel.
Rountree appointed the Newport News Public Defender’s Office to represent the teen. A hearing was set for Oct. 13 to determine the status of the case and set it for a probable cause hearing.
Before the hearing began, Rountree initially sent word to a reporter through a sheriff’s deputy that the hearing would be closed, given that the teen is a juvenile.
But the reporter sent a written objection to the judge, and Rountree later allowed an attorney for the Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot to appear at a closed hearing by teleconference to argue that the hearing should be held in open court.
The Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office initially jointly asked that the hearing be closed.
But the newspaper’s attorney cited a Virginia law that says that juvenile court hearings shall be open to the public if the child is at least 14 and the offense would be a felony if committed by an adult.
Rountree would not allow a reporter to attend the discussion over whether the hearing should be open. But he ultimately allowed the reporter to attend the arraignment, with the teen’s name unspoken at the hearing.
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