Bellaire HS shooting suspect carried victim out of building after shooting
New details have been released after a student was charged with manslaughter and released to juvenile authorities after police say he shot another student to death at Bellaire High School.
Prosecutors believe the 16-year-old who allegedly shot 19-year-old senior Cesar Cortes did not intend to harm his friend.
Sources say the shooting was unintentional, and the students were playing with the gun.
According to sources with knowledge of the case, three students went to a storage area of Bellaire High School Tuesday afternoon, because the alleged shooter wanted to show the two other teens his gun.
One teenager then walked away from the storage area. That’s when he heard a shot.
Sources say the 16-year-old suspect then carried Cortes out of the storage area before running away.
The teen is already charged with manslaughter. Juvenile cases are not public. The suspect’s earliest court appearance could be Friday.
Bellaire police continue to investigate the shooting.
The 16-year-old suspect was questioned for several hours after his arrest but he refused to make any statements about what happened, authorities said.
Multiple friends of the victim said Cortes planned to serve his country and had already enlisted in the Army.
The suspect was arrested around 8 p.m. on Tuesday on Caversham Drive near Chimney Rock Road.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg explained why manslaughter charges were filed during a press conference on Wednesday.
“The reason that the manslaughter charge was filed as opposed to murder, is because at this time, the evidence shows that the act that the juvenile committed was not intentional, but it was reckless. The individuals knew each other.”
Ogg continued saying, “So, this is not an accident because pulling a trigger on a gun, whether you know if it’s loaded or not, is an intentional act, but he did not, based on the evidence we have right now, intend to kill his friend, yet he did.”
The weapon used has not been located, according to Bellaire police. Investigators said the suspect may have discarded it after leaving the high school campus.
In a press conference Wednesday, Bellaire Police Lt. Greg Bartlett said the weapon is a 32 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
Bartlett said the suspect brought the gun with him to school that morning. Investigators believe multiple students saw the suspect with the gun before the shooting occurred.
“If you see something, say something, said Bartlett. “Unfortunately, kids tend to be a little tight-lipped to protect other students.”
Authorities say about six other students were in the room at the time of the shooting.
“Citizens in the area of (Bellaire High) school should be careful and report any found handgun immediately to Bellaire PD,” police chief Byron Holloway said.
In pictures taken during the arrest, the suspect is seen being escorted into a police vehicle in handcuffs. Police say the student was hiding with a friend behind a convenience store before his arrest. The friend was also taken into custody.
Bellaire police used a drone during the search efforts.
They responded to the shooting at the school around 4 p.m. Cortes was shot on campus and was later pronounced dead.
Officials initially said classes were set to resume on Wednesday, but HISD later announced classes were officially cancelled.
HISD released the following statement:
“The Houston Independent School District is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of one of our students. We offer our deepest sympathies to the student’s family and friends. This incident is being investigated by the Bellaire Police Department. HISD is fully cooperating in the investigation. In this time of sadness and loss, I want to assure you that we will have grief and crisis counselors available on campus tomorrow and as long as needed to offer our students and staff emotional support. We will also have extra officers on campus and patrols around the campus in addition to extra administrative personnel to ensure the school is safe and secure.”
“A learning environment is the last place where young people should feel unsafe and in fear of their lives,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner in a statement. “Yet gun violence continues to disrupt schools and destroy families across the country. I extend my deepest condolences to the young man’s loved ones and to all students, teachers and staff at Bellaire High school.”
Turner said he spoke with students who serve on the Mayor’s Youth Council during a meeting about the incident, saying “As I said to them, I will continue to work with elected officials at the state and federal level, along with advocacy groups and all people who are ready to enact laws to protect our children.”