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Child found with Tec-9 recants story
Apr 28, 2005 12:00 am
APRIL 27, 2005
A second-grader who shocked educators by packing a high-powered handgun to school unleashed another surprise on Tuesday, contradicting claims his teenage brother supplied him with the weapon.
At time fidgeting playfully in the witness stand, the 7-year-old repeatedly testified he "found" the weapon on a street in a public housing development, continually denying any link between his brother and the weapon.
The child's testimony came during a preliminary hearing for his 19-year-old brother, who was arrested on charges of supplying him with the semi-automatic handgun shortly after it was found in his backpack at Sam Houston Elementary School in February.
Though Lebanon police have claimed the teen showed his younger brother where the gun was located and even demonstrated part of its workings, the boy repeatedly denied those allegations from the witness stand.
His brother, who is free on bond, appeared to follow the youth's testimony closely, smiling at the casually dressed child as he left the courtroom after stepping down from the witness stand.
Though the boy – who has been barred from returning to Lebanon Special School District classes until at least August – directly contradicted the claims of police, General Sessions Judge Robert Hamilton still ordered his brother bound over to the grand jury at the conclusion of the hearing.
"It sort of comes down to which story do you believe," the judge remarked from the bench after issuing his ruling.
Hamilton at times interrupted the youth's testimony as he was questioned by Assistant District Attorney Jason Lawson, particularly after the boy testified he lied to school officials and police when he told them his brother had shown him the weapon the night before it turned up in a crowded classroom.
The youth testified he picked up the gun on the side of the street on his way to school that morning and lied about his brother's involvement because "I was scared."
"I don't understand why that would be better," Hamilton said as he interjected to ask the youth why he was untruthful with educators and authorities. "That point puzzles me, because if I found it outside on a sidewalk and I hadn't done anything wrong, what sense would it make for me to make up a story like that?"
At one point in the hearing Lawson appeared to attempt to show the 19-year-old had tried to influence his younger brother's testimony, asking if the two had "talked" prior to Tuesday's hearing.
"Did he tell you to tell us that you found that gun?" Lawson asked.
"No he didn't," the youth replied.
The boy told the court he was nervous and "afraid I would get in trouble" when he initially told police, teachers and administrators he had taken the gun from a closet in his grandmother's home after being shown the weapon by his brother.
"Why did you tell the teachers you found the gun in the hall closet if you really found it on the street?" Lawson asked.
"I was scared," the boy replied.
Under cross-examination by Assistant Public Defender Tillman Payne, the youth said he believed "somebody dropped" the gun and he didn't tell an adult when he found it because "the school bus was already coming."
The youth told the court he felt "mad" because "I knew I did a wrong thing."
"What did you do that was wrong?" Payne asked.
"I picked up a gun," the youth replied, later adding "I was scared I was going to get in trouble."
The boy told the court numerous times he concocted the story about his brother showing him the gun because "I was afraid I was going to get in trouble."
"I was nervous … I was afraid," the child testified.
He was followed to the witness stand by his teacher, Erica Wilkins, who recalled the shocking discovery inside the child's backpack after a bullet "rolled between his desk and another."
She said when the youth was questioned about how he obtained the gun he said "that morning he got up and got it (the gun) out of the closet."
Wilkins – who described the child as a "good student" – went on to quote him as telling officials, "'My brother was showing it to me last night and I got it out of the closet.'"
The defense utilized only one witness, Marie Dickerson, the grandmother of both brothers. She testified she could not recall whether the teen was at her home the night before the gun was found in school.
"I never seen it," she testified of the weapon. "I don't even know what it looks like."
Dickerson testified she "doubted" a handgun could have been hidden in her hallway closet without her knowledge, testifying "that's where I keep my clothes" – a remark that drew a smile and a nod from the defendant.
In issuing his ruling, Hamilton noted he is a well-known gun enthusiast but went on to comment on the "terrific responsibility that comes with owning something that can be deadly."
"I think there is sufficient evidence to bind the case to the grand jury," the judge said.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.