A West Liberty-Salem High School student charged for injuring two students during a school shooting last week made his first court appearance Monday.
During the detention hearing in the Champaign County Juvenile Division, a denial was entered on behalf of Ely R. Serna.
Serna, 17, is facing 13 charges including two counts of attempted murder and six counts of improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation or a school safety stemming from a shooting which took place at West Liberty-Salem High School last Friday.
On Monday, Serna appeared before Judge Lori Reisinger and was represented by Attorney Michael R. Pentecost.
During the hearing, Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi said Serna should remain in detention for the pendency of the case as he is a risk to the public and himself. Talebi noted Serna has expressed thoughts of suicide.
In a press release issued over the weekend, Talebi stated his office will file a motion requesting the juvenile court relinquish jurisdiction and bind Serna’s case over to the general division of the common pleas court so Serna may be tried as an adult. The motion was filed on Monday.
Pentecost asked for Serna to be released during the pendency of the case.
The court ordered for Serna to remain in detention with Reisinger citing the amount of planning that went into the alleged offense, the use of a firearm and the major injuries one victim sustained. A conference between the attorneys in the case is scheduled to take place as soon as possible but no date was set during the hearing.
WL-S student Logan Cole was one of two victims in the shooting.
During a Monday afternoon press conference held outside of West Liberty-Salem Schools, Superintendent Kraig Hissong provided a brief update on Cole’s status.
“I would like to report that through God’s hand Logan Cole’s condition continues to improve,” Hissong said. “He still has much healing to do and our hearts, thoughts and prayers should remain with him and his family for the days to come.”
A second juvenile victim who is also a West-Liberty Salem High School student was later identified as having been struck by part of the shot that was discharged from the firearm. Hissong stated he could not identify this victim but stated their wounds were minor.
On behalf of the board of education and the school district, Hissong thanked families, the local community, other area schools, businesses and other organizations for the overwhelming support they have shown the school.
“This support means so much to our school staff and to our students,” Hissong said. “I again want to thank our students and staff for the action they took last Friday. Their swift action in following our procedures saved many lives that day. I also want to commend our local first responders and our law enforcement for the work that they did in helping to organize and protect our students and staff through this event.”
Hissong said meetings being held Monday were designed to help the staff support students as they return to school Tuesday.
“It is our goal to make (Tuesday) a day of healing at West-Liberty Salem,” Hissong said.
On Tuesday, the school is operating on a one-hour delay which Hissong said is to allow time for teachers and counselors to work with students and be able to speak about and share thoughts about last Friday’s events. Counselors from outside the school district will also be available to the school to assist.
“We also have requested law enforcement to be available to greet the students as they arrive as a symbol of support and security to our staff and children,” Hissong said. “In addition we will have additional staff on school buses to greet students as they ride the bus to school. This is all an attempt to help them feel comfortable and safe upon their return to the school.”
The school district held an open house for district families Monday evening in conjunction with a regularly scheduled basketball game.
“This is for the children to be able to enter the school with their family and reacquaint themselves with their teachers and other friends and community members and experience the school in a safe fashion,” Hissong said of Monday night’s open house.
“We hope by students being back in the building with their parents and families, with their friends, with their teachers that there will start to become a sense of healing again and that they become more comfortable with the surroundings. Their last remembrance of this was a tragic day and we want to be able to put a positive day before their first day of school.”
During the press conference, Hissong fielded multiple questions regarding last Friday’s incident and school safety.
“We’re certainly trying to do our best to know our students and know the situations the best that we can,” Hissong said. “To prevent this from happening again, we’re reviewing all of our safety plans as you might imagine. We feel good about how our plan worked but we know it can always be better and we will continue to look at that in the days, weeks and months to come to make sure that we’re as prepared as we can be.”
Hissong said the school district is considering what can be implemented in their new security plans.
“The board has expressed their interest in wanting to take a reasonable approach and not knee-jerk reactions at this point so we want to come up with a good plan in place, not just respond to the tragic event that occurred.”
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.
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