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Police kill 8th-grader brandishing pellet gun at school

Police in the South Texas border city of Brownsville shot and killed an eighth-grade student who displayed a pellet gun as classes were beginning at a middle school Wednesday, authorities said. The boy "engaged the officers and was shot," said Drue Brown, spokeswoman for the Brownsville Independent School District. Interim Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez identified the student as Jaime Gonzalez, 15.

Rodriguez said two officers fired three shots, striking Gonzalez at least twice, after he failed to comply with "numerous commands" to drop the weapon. He said that before police were called to the school, Gonzalez walked into a classroom and punched another boy in the nose.

He said the weapon was a .177-caliber pellet gun, which uses compressed carbon dioxide to fire a small metal pellet at low velocity. Police released a photo of what they said was Gonzalez's gun, which resembled a semiautomatic handgun.


The boy's father, Jaime Gonzalez Sr., called the shooting unjustified and said he had no idea where his son got the pellet gun.

"Why was so much excess force used on a minor?" he asked. "Three shots. Why not one that would bring him down?"

The police chief said his officers "took the necessary action to protect themselves and the other kids."

School administrators called police and ordered a lockdown after the student "displayed a weapon" in the main hallway, Brown said.

Student Robert Valle, 13, reported hearing police enter the hallway and shout, "Put the gun down."

"I was nervous," Jade Rodriguez, 11, said. "I was under the desk."

Student homicides at school are fairly rare. Federal statistics show school killings account for fewer than 2% of youth homicides; young people are about 50 times more likely to die violently off school grounds than on them.

Dewey Cornell, a psychologist and education professor at the University of Virginia, said that in most school shooting cases, someone knew beforehand about an armed student's distress.

"The first question that people have to ask is whether this boy felt bullied or mistreated in the school in some way," Cornell said. "Initially people always express dismay. Invariably when you find out enough about the young man, it does become explicable."

U.S. Education Department data show that in the 2008-09 school year, the most recent for which records are available, 15 students were school homicide victims. In 1992-93, the figure was 34.

Contributing: Greg Toppo in McLean, Va.; AP


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