After a debate with the judge about his intent in committing the crime, seventh-grader Peter E. Adams was sentenced yesterday to 20 years in prison -- with all but eight of them suspended -- for shooting a school police officer in February at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School.
Appearing at a hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court, the 15-year-old was ready to agree to the terms of a plea bargain and go to prison. But he was not willing to admit to an irritated Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe that he intentionally shot Officer James Kelly.
"Well, then," the judge said. "I'm not going to take your plea." She said she was tired of hearing the youth's "outrageous" claim that his .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol went off accidentally.
Pressed by the judge, the Adams youth said he had drawn his gun after the security officer confiscated his pager. "He came toward me. That's when I shot him," the boy said, his voice barely audible.
Satisfied with the boy's admission of guilt, the judge changed her mind and accepted his guilty pleas to attempted second-degree murder and using a handgun in a violent crime.
The sentence requires that the youth serve five years for the handgun violation with no chance for parole, with five years of supervised probation upon release.
Judge Bothe had denied earlier motions that the Adams youth, of the 600 block of McCabe Ave., be tried as a juvenile.
In a statement of facts read to the court, prosecutor Mark P. Cohen said the incident began shortly after school was dismissed on Feb. 24, when Officer Kelly saw the Adams youth arguing with another student. He said the officer noticed that the youth was wearing a pager, which is illegal, and he took him into the school's security office where he attempted to arrest him.
Before the Adams youth could be handcuffed, he drew the gun and shot the officer, Mr. Cohen said, adding that the student had loaded the weapon in a school bathroom. The officer fell on top of the boy and a custodian was able to grab the weapon.
Police searched the youth and found four $10 bags of cocaine, Mr. Cohen said. Officer Kelly, shot once in the abdomen, was hospitalized for six days after the incident.
The Adams youth has a history of disciplinary problems, which prompted school officials to transfer him several times.
Yesterday, Judge Bothe questioned the wisdom of school administrators who authorized the transfer to Roland Park, considered one of the city's safest and best schools. "It's incredible he was there at all," she said.