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12 Year Old Pleads Not Guilty In Attempted School Shooting Case

North Scott Junior High via facebook
A 12 year old North Scott Junior High School student has pleaded not guilty to three charges, after allegedly trying to shoot and kill his teacher.

A 12 year old eastern Iowa boy has pleaded not guilty to three charges, after allegedly trying to shoot and kill his teacher last August. Luke Andrews is being tried as a youthful offender in adult court.

In a filing with the Scott County District Court, junior high school student Luke Andrews pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, carrying a weapon on school grounds, and assault while displaying a dangerous weapon.

Investigators say Andrews walked into his North Scott Junior High School classroom in Eldridge last year with a loaded pistol. He allegedly pointed the gun at students and then at his teacher and pulled the trigger, but it didn’t fire because the safety was on.

Criminal complaints state the boy's teacher was able to wrestle the weapon away from him before officers arrived and confiscated the gun. Investigators determined the pistol was loaded with one round in the chamber and 11 rounds in the magazine.

Prosecutors are trying the boy in adult court as a youthful offender, meaning full penalties would be delayed until he’s of age. If convicted, Andrews would stay in the juvenile justice system until he’s 18, when he would return to adult court for sentencing.

State officials argue the youthful offender system allows the juvenile system a period of time to try to rehabilitate kids, and the courts have an opportunity to reassess the case before enforcing adult punishment. As the child approaches the age of 18, a judge can choose to discharge the youthful offender, or continue sentencing or suspend sentencing.

Andrews is scheduled to appear in court again next month, with a jury trial slated to start February 18th.

Because the defendant is so young, a judge had tried to limit public access and media coverage of the case. District Judge Patrick McElyea initially barred reporters from identifying the defendant and any underage witnesses by name, or photographing them.

Through his lawyer Melanie Thwing, Andrews had argued to limit access to court filings in the case, out of a concern that public scrutiny could make it harder for him to reintegrate in society in the future.

"It is not a stretch to assume he would be required to attend appointments, obtain employment, or finish his education. Any of these steps become increasingly harder as more information about the case is available," reads a court filing from Andrews' lawyer.

Following appeals by the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and the Quad-City Times, McElyea rolled back the previous order, allowing reporters to identify the defendant and any potential witnesses.

The state's youthful offender statute has faced criticisms and legal challenges in the past.

An April 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling upheld the sentencing of another youthful offender, who was 13 when he shot and killed his mother. Lawyers for the defendant argued in Iowa vs. Noah Crooks the practice of trying young children in adult court is cruel and unusual punishment, and should not apply to kids under the age of 14.

The Court affirmed the sentencing and deferred to the Legislature for changes on juvenile justice and sentencing reform.

"We conclude the district court properly exercised its discretion based on an individualized assessment of this defendant under a constitutional statutory scheme. We acknowledge sentencing reform efforts nationwide to raise the minimum age for prosecution in adult court. But under our constitutional separation of powers, those efforts should be directed to the legislature," the justices wrote in the opinion.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter