Teen awaits decision in pellet shooting

by AARON SANDERFORD Lincoln Journal Star

A 16-year-old Lincoln boy will learn this month whether he will be tried as an adult in Wednesday's pellet-gun shooting of a postal worker. He was charged Friday with second-degree assault.

U.S. Postal Service employee Richard Kelly returned to work last week after suffering a wound to his lower left leg. A pellet was lodged "deep in the muscle," according to the 16-year-old's arrest affidavit.

Kelly's Halloween shooting near 31st and S streets shook a postal community already reeling from anthrax scares and national reports of decreased revenue.

According to police and court documents, the assault investigation developed this way:

The postal worker told officers he was leaving Sacred Heart Church when he heard a pop and felt a sting on his left leg. Kelly called police himself once he realized he'd been hurt.

A police sergeant first interviewed the two boys later arrested in the attack as they stood on their porch. The boys were talking to the alleged shooter's father, who told the sergeant he had come home from work after talking to his son by phone.

The suspected shooter told the sergeant that he and his friend had been in the garage during a previous police canvass of the neighborhood, that they had not heard an officer's knock.

When investigators learned that the shot had come from the direction of the 16-year-old's house, police interviewed the boys again. Both denied knowledge of the assault.

But the alleged shooter's friend told police a different story when interviewed away from his buddy. The friend said neither boy had meant for the postman to be hit, that his 16-year-old host was shooting at a squirrel.

Police then confronted the suspected shooter, who confessed to firing the shot but said the assault was unintentional. Officers found the alleged assault weapon, an air rifle, in the boy's basement bedroom.

The boy's friend later told a detective that the 16-year-old had fired the rifle from an upstairs bedroom window at a squirrel and relayed that he had accidentally hit the postman. Both boys had seen the postal worker walking in the area, he said.

Authorities lodged both boys at the Attention Center on suspicion of second-degree assault. The Lancaster County Attorney's Office decided against prosecuting the alleged shooter's 17-year-old friend. Prosecutors lacked evidence that he had aided or abetted the shooting suspect, County Attorney Gary Lacey said.

Meanwhile, the 16-year-old awaits a Nov. 13 hearing on whether he will be tried as an adult.

If convicted of second-degree assault as an adult, he could face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If tried as a juvenile, he could still serve time, but it would be at Kearney instead of the penitentiary.

Reach Aaron Sanderford at 473-7225 or at asanderford@journalstar.com

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