Texas teen accidentally shoots friend dead in school’s ROTC room

A Texas teen fatally shot his friend inside their Houston-area high school’s ROTC room.

Six students were there with no adult present on Tuesday afternoon when a 16-year-old boy, whose name was not released, produced a pistol from his waistband and pulled the trigger, Bellaire Police Lt. Greg Bartlett said.

Cesar Cortes, 19, was struck and rushed to the hospital, where he died.

The suspect took off after the shooting and was busted 3 1/2 hours later, authorities said. He was charged with manslaughter as a minor, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Based on evidence gathered so far, the shooting appears to have been unintentional, District Attorney Kim Ogg said. Both students were members of the school’s ROTC training, and it did not appear that they had been fighting before the incident, she said.

“They were friendly. They were friends,” Ogg said. “Pulling a trigger on a gun, whether you know if it’s loaded or not, is an intentional act. But he did not, based on the evidence we have right now, intend to kill his friend.”

The alleged shooter confessed to other students — but not to police — and hasn’t aided in the investigation, according to Bartlett.

The suspect’s gun, which has not yet been located, was not school property or issued by the ROTC, according to authorities, who say the teen brought it from home.

“This is a regular kid, evidently, who is now a violent offender,” Ogg said. “Whether he meant to be violent or not, he killed somebody. And that somebody was a son, and a student, and a friend, and it’s our community’s collective loss.”

People gather outside Bellaire High School after the shooting.
People gather outside Bellaire High School after the shooting.AP

The school district cancelled classes Wednesday, but they resumed Thursday under tightened security.

At a Wednesday-night vigil, Bellaire student Sammy Ramirez, who said she was Cortes’ girlfriend, told The Houston Chronicle that Cortes had a strong sense of duty to serve his country.

His interests included video games and Star Wars, she said.

“The way he smiled just brightened me up,” Ramirez said. “He kept to himself but he was so comfortable with me.”

Some students gathered at the vigil wore their full JROTC uniforms out of respect.

Lia Hatvany, 15, told the Chronicle Cortes was often quiet — but still had a commanding presence.

“You knew he was in the room because of how much leadership he had,” she said. “He knew what he was doing, and he made a big impact on anyone who came across him.”

With Post wires

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