Police: Suspect accidentally shot and killed fellow student at Houston-area school

Jan. 15 (UPI) — Texas police charged a minor with manslaughter on Wednesday for the accidental shooting death of a fellow student at a Houston-area high school, authorities said.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said evidence indicates the 16-year-old suspect had unintentionally shot and killed a 19-year-old student in a supply room of Bellaire High School, about 5 miles southwest of downtown Houston.

“The act was not intentional but it was reckless,” Ogg said. “So, this is not an accident because 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 evidence we have right now, intend to kill his friend.”

The suspect and a second person in his company were arrested Tuesday after leading police on a near four-hour manhunt following the school shooting. The victim, who has been identified as Cesar Cortez, died at the hospital, police said.

Bellaire Police Department Lt. Greg Bartlett said the suspect has not been cooperating with authorities, so they cannot confirm that it was an accidental discharge.

“Six students were in the room when the shooting took place, but only two of them know exactly what happened and one of them is dead and the other isn’t talking,” he said.

“As best we can tell they were just students,” Bartlett told reports during a briefing. “They may have some personal interaction in the past but to what extent we don’t know because the suspect is not cooperating with us.”

Bartlett said the suspect is calm, stated he didn’t want to speak with the police and hasn’t shown any signs of remorse.

The suspect had the weapon tucked in his waistband before showing it to the students, some of whom left the room prior to the shooting because the weapon had been produced, Bartlett said.

The second person arrested has been released without charges, Bartlett said, explaining he was arrested as he was discovered with the suspect.

Authorities said police have been unable to locate the weapon used during the shooting, believing the suspect ditched it following the incident.

“We don’t have any witness to his path of travel after he left the school,” Bartlett said. “So, we can only guess” where the weapon may be.

Officers are conducting a search near the school for the weapon and a request has been sent to local residents informing them to notify local police should they find a handgun, the City of Bellaire said in a release.

Meanwhile, a vigil was held Wednesday evening for the slain Cortez at Bellaire’s Evelyn’s Park.

“Prayers to the family, friends and entire [Bellaire] community,” Harris County Constable Alan Rosen said via Twitter posting photos from the event.