ITALY, Texas (AP) – A 15-year-old girl who was wounded in a Texas high school shooting is “in good spirits,” and the 16-year-old boy suspected of opening fire in the cafeteria has been charged as a juvenile with aggravated assault, officials said Tuesday.
Italy Independent School District Superintendent Lee Joffre, who visited the girl at a Dallas hospital and spoke to reporters outside Italy High School, said, “It is an amazing demonstration of her strength that she was able to survive this.”
In a statement addressed to parents and the community Tuesday, Joffre said the girl, whose name has not been released, was shot multiple times Monday morning at the high school in Italy, south of Dallas.
The teenage boy who was arrested not long after the shooting was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the Ellis County district attorney’s office announced Tuesday. He was being held at a juvenile detention center, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in juvenile court.
Police have not released the suspect’s name and Italy police Chief Michael Taylor did not respond to a request for comment.
Assistant District Attorney Ann Montgomery declined to say whether the boy’s case will remain in juvenile court or whether prosecutors will move to charge him as an adult.
Montgomery would not say why the suspect was charged with two counts. Ellis County sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Fitzgerald also declined to comment on that.
Cassie Shook, a 17-year-old junior at the school, has told The Associated Press that she was driving up to the building Monday when she saw “the doors fly open and everyone screaming and running out of the building.” She said she was angry when she learned who the suspect was because she’d complained about the boy at least twice to school officials, including to a vice principal.
“This could have been avoidable,” she said. “There were so many signs.”
Shook said she first went to school officials after the boy allegedly made a “hit list” in eighth grade and her name was on it. Then last year, the boy got angry during a class and threw a pair of scissors at her friend and later threw a computer against a wall, she said. She said the boy was removed from the school but eventually was allowed back.
Tina Haight, whose daughter attends the school, told KDFW-TV in Dallas that she had complained to school administrators after the same boy threw scissors at her daughter in anger.
Joffre has repeatedly said that he can’t comment on disciplinary actions involving students. He says that the district “adheres to regulations established by the Texas Education Agency.”
“I have confidence that our administration always addresses the Texas education code appropriately,” he said.
In his statement Tuesday to parents and the community, Joffre said he understands they have “many questions and concerns.” At a news conference Tuesday afternoon at a church that lasted less than five minutes, Joffre said he’d like to help “possibly address some of the concerns” about “conversations and speculation regarding student discipline.” He noted though that while he could talk generally about disciplinary procedures, the law prohibits a district from speaking specifically regarding student discipline or any other student incidents.
Shook said the girl who was shot had moved to the school district a few months earlier. She said the girl had briefly dated the suspect, but that she did not know much about her.
Fitzgerald said authorities would inquire about any dating history involving the two as part of the investigation. The sergeant also said officials know where the handgun used in the shooting was obtained. He declined to publicly reveal that information.
School resumed Tuesday. Agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched the building for weapons and explosive devices before students arrived. Joffre said law enforcement officers would be on campus through the day.
“It was an extra assurance for us to be ready for our students today,” he said.
Italy, a town of about 2,000 people that dubs itself “The Biggest Little Town In Texas,” is about 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of Dallas.