A small JROTC gathering in Texas turned deadly on Tuesday when a student brandished a handgun he had brought to a Houston-area high school and pulled the trigger, unintentionally killing an upperclassman who had already enlisted in the Army, the New York Times reports. A Texas prosecutor said the 16-year-old suspect and fellow JROTC student at Bellaire High School had been charged with manslaughter. The suspect fled and was captured several hours later, prompting fears of another targeted shooting in a state that has endured a spate of gun violence.
The Bellaire Police Department identified the victim as Cesar Cortes, 19. Friends and family members described Cortes as a focused young man who was dedicated to a military service career and his physical fitness regimen. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said the shooting did not appear to be intentional. “Ignorance of whether a weapon was loaded or not does not remove liability,” Ogg said. “It’s important that I know where he got it and how he got it,” she said of the weapon, noting that her office had prioritized gun violence prevention. The shooting happened as classes were ending at the public high school in Bellaire. Ogg did not rule out charging the suspect as an adult. “Reckless conduct that causes the death of another individual is something that this young person is going to have to live with the rest of his life,” she said.