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6-Year-Old Shooter Questioned

March 2, 2000

MOUNT MORRIS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) _ The 6-year-old boy who killed a first-grade classmate used a stolen semiautomatic gun he apparently discovered loaded and lying around in a bedroom at the ``flophouse″ where he was living, investigators said Wednesday.

The boy was questioned again Wednesday and told investigators that the shooting was an accident and that he had only been trying to scare the girl, Police Chief Eric King said.

The boy is too young to understand what he was doing, and probably won’t be charged, said Genesee County Prosecutor Arthur Busch.

``He is a victim in many ways,″ Busch said. ``It is very sad. We need to put our arms around him and love him.″

Authorities focused on possible charges against any adults who gave the boy access to the .32-caliber pistol he used to shoot 6-year-old Kayla Rolland on Tuesday morning, a day after the two apparently had scuffled on the playground at Buell Elementary School.

After the shooting, the boy put the gun in his desk and went to the school office, Superintendent Ira Rutherford said. When police first questioned him, King said, he ``sat there drawing pictures.″

Busch said the house where the boy and his 8-year-old brother were staying with an uncle was frequented by strangers, and the boy’s father _ who is in jail for a parole violation _ told the sheriff that people at the house traded crack cocaine for guns.

The father, Dedric Owens, 29, was let out of jail Wednesday to attend a court hearing in Flint with the boy’s mother, Tamarla Owens. The father apologized for the shooting; the judge ordered the children into a maternal aunt’s custody.

``I feel bad for the other family. I wish it would’ve never have happened,″ Dedric Owens said. ``I will do anything to get my kids back.″

The boy and his brother had been staying for about two weeks with the uncle _ their mother’s brother _ after the mother had been evicted from her home, Busch said. It was unclear where the sister had been staying.

The ramshackle house is surrounded by mud-caked trash, and the front yard is cluttered with an empty vodka bottle and a rusting black Camaro. The home has tattered and stained curtains, and fluttering plastic garbage bags taped over broken windows. No one answered the door Wednesday.

The uncle, Sirmarcus B. Winfrey, was arrested Tuesday night on an outstanding warrant on charges of receiving stolen property and was to be questioned, police said. A second man, who authorities believe once had the gun used in the shooting, turned himself in Wednesday for questioning and was jailed on outstanding warrants and ``miscellaneous charges,″ Busch said.

Busch said investigators believe the gun used in the shooting had been left, apparently loaded, under some blankets in a bedroom at the house. Investigators also found a stolen 12-gauge shotgun and drugs in the house, the prosecutor said.

Outside the school Wednesday, mourners created memorials of candles, flowers and cards for Kayla, who died a half-hour after she was shot once in the chest. Classes were canceled for the day, but counselors were on hand for anyone who needed them. School was also canceled for Thursday.

Sheila Alger and her 4-year-old son, Austin, placed a teddy bear at the school’s front door. ``He doesn’t understand, and I don’t think other kids do,″ Alger said. ``I don’t think the boy who did it understands.″

Police said they had gotten conflicting stories from the young witnesses about what exactly happened inside Room 6. Some said the boy pointed the gun at others first; others said he didn’t. Some reported that he said something to Kayla first; others said he said nothing.

``The witnesses are little kids,″ King said.

The police chief said three bullets apparently had been in the gun before it was fired, rather than one, as authorities said previously. When the weapon was recovered, officers found one spent casing, one bullet in the chamber and one bullet in the clip, he said.

The chief also said there may have been as many as seven children in the classroom when the shooting occurred, rather than five as first believed.

Parents converged on the school board’s regular meeting Wednesday night, some with a petition asking the district to install metal detectors, security cameras and teachers’ aides in every classroom.

They also asked Rutherford what the district could have done to prevent the shooting.

``If there was a simple answer, we would have done it 20 years ago,″ Rutherford told about 150 people at the meeting. ``We’ve agonized about this.″ He didn’t say whether the district would install metal detectors.

Owens told the sheriff that his son had been suspended from school for fighting and for stabbing a girl with a pencil.

Owens heard about Tuesday’s shooting from a cellmate and ``a cold, sinking feeling came over him because he knew it was his son,″ Sheriff Robert Pickell said. ``He said (his son) liked to watch the violent movies, the television shows.″

The sheriff said Owens told him that when he asked his son why he fought with other children, the boy ``told him that he hated them.″

And Pickell said that although the father told him ``he’d never seen the .32-caliber weapon the boy used,″ people in the house traded crack for weapons and other merchandise.

``There were people coming and going from this house,″ Busch said. When police went there, ``there were several people just hanging out. I call it a flophouse.″

The boy is the youngest suspect in the deadly school shootings that have rocked the nation over the past three years. In 1998, two boys, 11 and 13, opened fire at a school in Jonesboro, Ark., killing five.

Chris De Witt, spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, said under previous court decisions, a 6-year-old cannot be tried for murder in Michigan. He said the law allows murder charges against a 7-year-old.