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Chardon Shooting: Why Suspect Will Face Adult Charges

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CHARDON, Ohio --

New information is surfacing in Monday morning’s shooting at Chardon High School.

Thomas “T.J.” Lane, 17, claimed he walked into Chardon High School and randomly pointed a .22 Luger pistol at students he didn’t know. When asked why he would do that, he told Chardon police, “he could not say.”

Documents included in the filing of murder charges against Lane included a written statement by Chardon Police Patrolman M.J. DeLisa.  According to the document, once in custody, Lane confessed to firing 10 rounds “high in the area of their heads” so his victims wouldn’t suffer after being shot.

After running from the school, the teenager told police he tossed the empty magazine from his gun and reloaded a full magazine. He was arrested a short time later on Woodin Road in Chardon Township.

“If you planned ahead to go in and kill people, that’s premeditated,” said Law Professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich from Cleveland State University’s Marshall College of Law, explaining why Lane's not knowing his victims is a moot point in this case, “It doesn’t matter if you selected your victims particularly.”

Professor Witmer-Rich once worked with the Federal Public Defender’s Office handling appeals for indigent clients. He told Fox 8 News there is no doubt Lane would stand trial as an adult.

“The Ohio Legislature passed a statute that says for certain very serious offenses, including murder or attempted murder, and for certain ages of juveniles, including anyone who is 16 or 17, the Juvenile Court must bind that juvenile over to common pleas court,” he said.

Lane’s age cuts both ways in the halls of justice: It guarantees his eventual treatment as an adult, while at the same time, it prevents him from facing the death penalty.

“The Supreme Court held that juveniles categorically do not have quite the same level of culpability as an adult who commits that same crime and therefore they cannot be subject to that same ultimate punishment,” said Witmer-Rich.

The harshest punishment Lane could face for the killing of three high school students and the wounding of two others is life behind bars.

Lane will appear before Juvenile Court Judge Tim Grendell on Tuesday, March 6, to hear the charges against him. They include three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault.  A bind-over hearing to transfer Lane into the adult system will be held March 19.

*Click here for FOX8.com’s extended coverage on the tragedy in Chardon.