Ohio school shooting suspect’s family says it’s ‘devastated’


CINCINNATI (AP) — The family of the 14-year-old boy charged in a southwest Ohio school shooting said Wednesday it is “devastated” by his alleged actions and is praying for the quick recovery of the injured students.

The statement also said the family is praying for everyone involved “including Austin, whom we still deeply love.”

James Austin Hancock remained held in juvenile detention two days after authorities said he opened fire inside a Madison Local Schools cafeteria. Two students were shot and two others hurt.

“Our family has lived in this community our entire lives and we never expected anyone to experience the event that occurred on Monday, and we certainly did not expect that one of our family members would be involved,” said the statement emailed to news organizations by the boy’s aunt for “the whole family.”

Defense attorney Charles Rittgers confirmed that the statement was on behalf of Hancock’s family.

Hancock faces six charges, including two counts of attempted murder. He denied the charges through an attorney in a brief court appearance Tuesday. Butler County authorities are considering whether to seek to move his case to adult court before a juvenile court hearing scheduled for April 5.

The family’s statement came the same day Madison Local Schools students returned to classes. School officials said the day went well, although attendance was slightly below normal.

Teachers and staff greeted students as they arrived for school and uniformed police stood by as classes resumed at the campus just west of Middletown. Staffers joined children on their bus rides and had a first-day-of-school style welcome for the district’s approximately 1,600 students. Crisis counselors were available, while teachers and other staff lunched with students in the cafeteria where the shooting took place.

“The energy was positive in there,” Superintendent Curtis Philpot said about the cafeteria.

Philpot told reporters attendance was at about 90 percent, “a little lower” than usual, and that absences would be excused. Students were sent home with letters with tips and information for their families.

Authorities said all the wounded were recovering from injuries not considered life-threatening.

One of those hurt was Brant Murray, 13, with bullet fragments in a leg. He told reporters Tuesday evening he was sitting at a cafeteria table with friends Cameron Smith, 15, and Cooper Caffrey, 14, who were both shot.

“All of a sudden the kid stood up and started shooting at us, at our table,” Murray told WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, adding he just tried to “stay calm and not die. It was just weird; couldn’t believe what was happening.”

He said he didn’t realize he was hurt until he and others ran from the cafeteria into the choir room, where he rolled up a pants leg. His parents said they’ll consult with a surgeon on what to do about the bullet fragments.

Murray was among hundreds of people at the Tuesday evening event for a walk-through school officials set up to help families and students feel comfortable about the resumption of classes.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said authorities believe they know a motive for the shootings, but aren’t discussing it while the investigation continues.

Investigators have said Hancock told other students he had a gun and showed it to one just before the shooting. They said someone was going to tell administrators just before the shooting. They said Hancock got the .380-caliber handgun from a family member some time earlier and that he was carrying extra ammunition.

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