After Texas school shooting, many questions loom

By Danny Robbins

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 5 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Cary Young, a program coordinator at Sam Houston State University's Law Enforcement Management Institute, said pellet guns are often painted black so the orange tip no longer shows up. An officer dealing with someone holding such a gun has no choice but to consider it a deadly weapon, he said.

"If a reasonable officer believes it's a deadly weapon, he has the right to protect himself and others," said Young, a police officer in Texas for 20 years.

California considered legislation last year that would have made the state the first to require that BB and pellet guns to be made entirely with bright colors, but lawmakers did not approve the measure.

The bill was proposed after a Los Angeles police officer shot a 13-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun in a park. The boy was paralyzed.

Although the gun — a replica of a Beretta handgun — had an orange tip, it could not be seen because the incident occurred at night, police said.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the Brownsville shooting appears to be another in a series of incidents that might have been prevented if pellet and BB guns looked different from other weapons.

"Nobody can give me a legitimate downside to this," said Beck, who testified in support of the failed California legislation. "Does it hurt the sport? No. For me, this is just another way to keep folks safer."

The Brownsville shooting unfolded quickly Wednesday just as students were beginning their first-period classes. The boy walked into one room and randomly punched a classmate in the nose.

School staff saw the gun in his crotch and called police. The building was swiftly locked down, and the shots were heard a short time later.

Gonzalez said his son was not a bad kid, an assessment supported by the district superintendent.

The teen was a drum major whose band instructors had recently praised his achievements to his parents, his stepmother, Noralva Gonzalez, said.

She showed off a photo on her phone of a beaming Jaime in his drum major uniform standing with his band instructors. Then she flipped through three close-up photos she took of bullet wounds in her son's body.

Jaime's father said he didn't know where Jaime got the gun. Police believed it was a gift, and a friend of the boy's, Star Rodriguez, said Jaime told her that. But she didn't know who gave it to him.

His parents said they would never give him a gun.

Later Thursday, a long line of mourners filed past an open casket containing Jaime's body at a church a block from the boy's home. His stepmother sobbed as she embraced each visitor.

The school was closed Thursday while police finished their crime-scene investigation. Students were bused instead to a new elementary school that was recently completed on the outskirts of Brownsville but had not yet been used.

District spokeswoman Drue Brown said 17 counselors were working with students and staff. Cummings has a student body of about 750, but only 200 students came to classes Thursday.

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