Teen charged in school bus BB shootings

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GREENE – An 11-year-old girl was cut by flying glass Wednesday when shots were fired at a school bus full of children on Allen Pond Road.

The girl escaped with minor injuries after the SAD 52 bus was struck by a BB, but the emotional cost was high. Investigators said several of the children, ages 8 through 11, were crying and shaking when police arrived.

Police said a teenager with a BB gun shot at two school buses as kids were being driven home from school Wednesday afternoon. He was later found by Maine State Police and arrested.

The 17-year-old Leavitt Area High School student was charged with reckless conduct, assault and criminal mischief. Police who investigated the shootings credited the schoolchildren with helping lead them to the suspect.

“I had a whole bus full of really good witnesses,” said Maine State Police Trooper Ricci Cote. “They were able to tell me exactly where the shots had come from.”

The first shooting was reported about 3 p.m. when an empty bus was being driven down Allen Pond Road, near Vermont Avenue, after the children were dropped off.

“The BB just missed the driver,” Cote said. “It shattered a window right behind him. While I was talking to him, we heard over his radio that another bus had been hit in the same area.”

Cote went to the scene of the second shooting and found another bus pulled to the side of the road, a pair of windows shattered from an impact.

“The BB went right in front of this little girl’s face and the glass cut her neck,” Cote said. “The kids were shaken up, and some of them were crying.”

Even so, the students on the bus pointed toward a rock wall near the side of Allen Pond Road, describing the area from where they believed the shots had been fired.

Cote went in that direction and knocked on the door of a nearby house. A 17-year-old boy opened the door there and soon admitted he had fired the shots that damaged both buses, Cote said.

“He said it was unintentional,” Cote said. “He said that he was shooting at a chipmunk.”

Cote arrested the 17-year-old and questioned the teen’s brother. He also confiscated a pair of BB guns, both Crosman Pumpmaster rifles. He then met with SAD 52 Superintendent Tom Hanson as the investigation continued.

“The superintendent came out to the scene to talk to me,” Cote said. “I was very impressed with that.”

Hanson could not be reached for comment, but news of the shootings was slowly circulating among school officials later in the day. Several SAD 52 board members said in the late afternoon that they had not heard about the incident. Others were just getting the news.

Assistant Superintendent Darlene Burdin said about 5:30 p.m. that she was just learning about the shootings, and that she did not know if it would disrupt Thursday’s bus schedules.

“We haven’t even had time to think about those things,” Burdin said.

Damage to the school buses, both owned by SAD 52, was minor and limited to the windows that were blown out. Ricci estimated the damage at under $1,000. The buses were parked at the Turner Garage for repairs Wednesday night.

Children on the second bus that was hit were later taken to their homes on other buses or were picked up by their parents. SAD 52 board Chairwoman Elizabeth Bullard said the children were delivered to their homes just minutes late, if they were late at all.

“It’s an unfortunate incident,” Bullard said. “But I think overall we’re lucky the kids came through it mostly unscathed.”

Cote agreed. He said in both cases, a matter of inches could have meant the difference between minor injuries and serious ones.

“We are extremely fortunate that it wasn’t much worse,” he said.

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