BELLAIRE, TX – A 16-year-old student mistakenly shot his friend in their Houston-area high school’s ROTC room before fleeing and being arrested several hours later, officials said Wednesday.
The two were in a room at Bellaire High School with four other students but no adult Tuesday afternoon when the 16-year-old took a semi-automatic pistol out of his waistband and pulled the trigger, killing 19-year-old Cesar Cortes, said Lt. Greg Bartlett.
The suspect, whose name wasn't released, fled the scene after the shooting and was arrested about 3 1/2 hours later, authorities said. He was charged as a minor with manslaught er, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
District Attorney Kim Ogg said that based on evidence gathered so far, the shooting does not appear to have been intentional. She said the students were part of the school's ROTC program and that there's no indication that they'd been fighting before the shooting.
“They were friendly. They were friends,” Ogg said. “Pulling a trigger on a gun, whether you know if it’s loaded or not, is an intentional act. But he did not, based on the evidence we have right now, intend to kill his friend.”
Bartlett said that the shooter confessed to other students but has not admitted guilt to the police nor helped in their investigation.
Authorities are still looking for the gun, which Bartlett said the student brought from home. It was not school property nor issued by the ROTC, he said.
“This is a regular kid, evidently, who is now a violent offender,” Ogg said of the shooter. “Whether he meant to be violent or not, he killed somebody. And that somebody was a son, and a student, and a friend, and it’s our community's collective loss.”
Police said they received a call about the shooting at around 4 p.m. and that the victim died later at a hospital.
The district canceled classes Wednesday, but they will resume Thursday with additional police officers patrolling campus, Grenita Lathan, the interim superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, said in a statement. __
This story has been corrected to reflect that the student killed was 19, not 16.__Bleiberg reported from Dallas. AP staff writer Nomaan Merchant contributed reporting from Bellaire, Texas.