ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) – A teenager charged with killing his father at their home and a first-grader on a school playground said he kissed his bunny Floppy and three dogs goodbye after shooting his father and then headed to the school to resume shooting, according to the boy’s videotaped statement played in court Monday.
The boy, who turned 14 shortly before the Sept. 28, 2016, killings, kissed the pet bunny and dogs after shooting his father three times, he told detectives in the statement recorded hours after the shootings during questioning. He added he then jumped into his father’s truck and drove to nearby Townville Elementary School, where he said he fired at students on the playground.
The videotape was played Monday, the first day of a hearing to decide if the teen is tried as an adult for the killings. 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.
After the shootings, the teen appears to eagerly answer questions from investigators, describing on videotape how he killed his 47-year-old father before driving 3 miles (5 kilometers) to the school. He could be heard on tape 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.
“It jammed again every time, and I thank God for that,” he said. “Please say no one died. Did anyone die?”
Detectives on the videotape didn’t answer his question.
Jacob Hall, 6, was shot in the leg and bled to death.
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.
The Associated Press is not using the defendant’s name because he hasn’t been charged as an adult.
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.
“I just stay in my room, holding my rabbit. That’s good for me,” the teen added.
He also said, “I always have this anger feeling.”
The boy said his father kept most of their 20 to 30 guns in a locked safe, but he knew of one kept hidden in a nightstand and loaded it while his father ran an errand the day of the killings.
As his statement played on a court TV, the teen looked down. He was in a wheelchair after breaking his leg playing basketball in juvenile jail.
The parents of the first grader killed were in court for Monday’s hearing start, but left before the videotape was played. Their son, Jacob Hall, was dressed as Batman at his funeral.
The teen barely talked on video about the children he shot at. Instead, he told detectives on tape he wanted to apologize to his family and he would miss his rabbit and three dogs, but figured he would get out of jail when he turned 18.
“Just make sure my family can get to see me. Tell them I love them too,” the teen said.
As detectives discussed his possible court date, the teen asked if he would be charged with murder, and then had one more question.
“Is there any charge for driving down the road underage?” he asked.
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