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Mental evaluation ordered for Mattoon H.S. shooting suspect

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Mattoon High School shooting

Police and other officials gather in front of Mattoon High School on Wednesday after a shooting incident in the school cafeteria.


CHARLESTON — Evaluations for mental issues were ordered Thursday during the first court appearance of the Mattoon High School student accused of shooting and injuring another student at the school on Wednesday.

Circuit Judge Mitchell Shick granted requests for the evaluations from Coles County Public Defender Anthony Ortega, who's been appointed to represent the boy, a high school freshman.

The evaluations will address the possibility of insanity at the time of the incident, whether the boy is a risk to himself or others, and if he's able to understand and help with his case.

The slightly built blonde teen appeared in court Thursday in custody of a state juvenile detention facility. Shick also ordered the boy's continued detention as the case continues.

Shick appointed Lawrence Jeckel, a Champaign psychiatrist, to examine the teen. The examinations will address issues that could affect whether he can be found guilty as well as treatment before the case's conclusion.

The insanity evaluation will try to determine if the teen's mental condition at the time of the shooting meant he wasn't criminally responsible for what he did.

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The mental fitness for trial issue could lead to the teen receiving treatment until he can help with his case. A finding that he's a risk to himself or others could also affect his detention.

Coles County State's Attorney Brian Bower agreed that Ortega had the right to seek the evaluations and didn't object to Shick's ordering them.

The boy's parents attended the hearing and, responding to Shick's question, said they agreed to the mental issue evaluations.

Members of the boy's family declined to be interviewed for this story.

The shooting took place late in the morning in the school's cafeteria. Some sources have indicated that bullying was a motivation.

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While addressing the detention issue Thursday, Bower provided Shick with some of the details of the Mattoon Police Department's investigation and arrest of the teen.

He said the witnesses who police Lt. Detective Sam Gaines interviewed included a high school student who said she was sitting at a lunch table with the suspect and other students.

The girl said she saw that the boy had a gun and Angie McQueen, physical education teacher, then approached him, Bower related. The boy then pulled the gun and pointed it at the girl and shot as McQueen grabbed his arm, he said.

The shot missed the girl but did hit another student in the upper chest, Bower said. More shots were fired into the cafeteria's ceiling before McQueen subdued the boy, he also said.

In addition, a semiautomatic handgun was later found in the teen's possession, Bower said.

Authorities have identified the wounded student as a boy who, at last report, was hospitalized in stable condition.

After the hearing, Bower said the suspect is charged with aggravated battery with a firearm.

As a juvenile court offense, a conviction would mean the teen would be ordered detained with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, the juvenile equivalent of prison, until the age of 21.

Bower said he didn't charge the teen with attempted murder because that charge requires an attempt at killing a specific person. It's also the same classification of offense as aggravated battery with a firearm and the possible sentence is the same, he explained.

With adult charges, both are felony offenses that require a prison sentence of six to 30 years with a conviction.

Shick scheduled the suspect's next court appearance for Oct. 5.

Mattoon High School will again operate on an early dismissal schedule Friday, according to school officials. The high school will dismiss at 12:09 pm. 

All other Mattoon school buildings will have regularly scheduled hours.


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