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Sentencing for Lamar High School shooter begins

The prosecution asked jurors to sentence the teen to 40 years in prison, the maximum a juvenile can receive for capital murder.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Prosecutors Tuesday asked a jury to hand down a maximum prison sentence to the child who shot and killed a student at Lamar High School last year in Arlington.

The child pleaded “true” to one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted capital murder. In juvenile court, a respondent enters a true plea instead of pleading guilty.

The now-16-year-old faces up to 40 years in prison. WFAA will not identify the respondent because he’s being tried as a juvenile.

“He set out that day to kill somebody and he did,” prosecutor Lee Sorrells said during opening statements. “When you see how many kids were sitting out there, it’s a miracle only one person died and another person was shot.”

The teenager killed 16-year-old Ja’Shawn Poirier when he fired a pistol-grip shotgun into a crowd of students sitting outside the school before class on March 20, 2023. The buckshot also grazed another child in the chin.

The surviving gunshot victim told jurors Tuesday she has a scar from the wound, which required stitches.

“Thunder is now something that puts me on edge and wakes me up in the middle of the night because it sounds so much like a gunshot,” she said.

During her testimony, prosecutors showed jurors surveillance video of the shooting. Students scattered after the teenager fired a second time. A handful of children, including the girl who was grazed, took cover behind a column in the courtyard.

Prosecutors contend the 16-year-old had “18 chances to kill someone” because he twice fired shells containing nine pellets each.

Jurors viewed photos of the injuries to Poirier’s neck and head taken after an autopsy. It’s likely the teenager died within seconds of being shot through the ear, a medical examiner testified.

On the day of the incident, the shooter told investigators he’d been sexually assaulted in a school bathroom months prior.

An Arlington police detective specializing in crimes against children Tuesday testified she closed that sexual assault case because there wasn’t enough evidence to corroborate the child’s claims. The 16-year-old lied about details of that incident and falsely accused two students of the crime, she said.

But she’d previously told prosecutors she believed something bad happened to the child in a manner different than he described.

Defense attorneys will call their witnesses Wednesday, mostly psychologists and mental health experts. They are lobbying the jury for a sentence less than the maximum, though they said the 16-year-old should be punished beyond probation.

“It’s a horrific, horrific crime,” defense attorney Frank Adler said during opening statements. “A beautiful teenage boy lost his life and (the 16-year-old) admitted to taking his life… he deserves to be punished.”

The defense will argue the boy “raised himself” because his mother is mostly absent and his father is a felon. His father was convicted of illegally possessing the shotgun the child used in the shooting.

“No excuse for what he did, but this is his story,” Adler said. “He wasn’t going to school. He wasn’t passing his grades. He had no role models at home.”

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