Texas target shooter charged with hitting a middle school student
A Texas man who told police he was target practicing was charged Friday in connection with a school shooting last month in which two youths were severely wounded.
Dustin Cook, 36, was arraigned Friday on a charge of second-degree felony aggravated assault in the Dec. 12 shooting outside Harwell Middle School in Edinburg, Texas, that wounded 14-year-old Edson Amaro.
Investigators have not been able to test the bullet that wounded 13-year-old Nicholas Tijerina during the same shooting because it is lodged near his spine, officials said Friday.
Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino called the shootings "reckless" during a news conference after Cook's arraignment, saying Cook told investigators he knew the middle school was behind the targets at which he was aiming, according to the Associated Press.
"He admitted knowing that there was a school in the trajectory," Trevino said.
Cook's attorney, Michael Guerra, told the Associated Press that once the details of what happened come out, they will show his client "didn't have any criminal responsibility, whatsoever" for the shooting.
Guerra said Cook is a parent and has been praying for the two boys and their families since the shooting.
Edson lost a kidney and, shortly before Christmas, Nicholas' doctor told the Associated Press that the youth has been unable to move his legs.
After the shooting in Edinburg, about 230 miles south of San Antonio, authorities had said they detained three armed men found nearby, including Cook and someone who had been practicing with him. The third man, an illegal immigrant with an assault rifle, was kept in custody on charges of misdemeanor trespass and poaching, police said.
Meanwhile, Harwell Middle School was again placed on lockdown Friday morning after neighbors reported hearing "noises that sounded like gunfire," a district spokesman said.
"None of the kids were outside," district spokesman Gilbert Tagle told The Times.
The lockdown lasted about half an hour, and was lifted after sheriff's deputies could not locate the source of the sounds, Tagle said.
He said local schools are still reeling from the shooting and another shooting at a middle school in nearby Brownsville on Wednesday that left a 15-year-old student dead. Brownsville police shot the eighth grader after he refused to drop what appeared to be a gun, only to discover he was holding a non-lethal pellet gun.
"Things are edgy down here in light of the Harwell situation and what happened in Brownsville," Tagle said. "People are being careful across the Rio Grande Valley."
Tagle said the district has been discussing plans to build a protective wall at the school, held discussions with local hunters to prevent shooting near the school and spoke with Texas lawmakers about drafting a law to prevent hunting near schools.
--Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston
Photo: Dustin Cook, 36, was arraigned Friday on a charge of second-degree felony aggravated assault in the Dec. 12 shooting outside Harwell Middle School in Edinburg, Texas. Credit: Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office