Teen pleads guilty to attempted murder in cafeteria shooting

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — A 15-year-old boy accused of shooting students in a school cafeteria pleaded guilty Thursday to four counts of attempted murder and one count of inducing panic.

In exchange, Butler County’s prosecutor agreed to drop four felonious assault charges against James Austin Hancock.

Hancock was charged in the Feb. 29 shooting at Madison Local Schools near Middletown, north of Cincinnati. Authorities said Hancock, who was 14 at the time, took a relative’s loaded gun to school and opened fire in a cafeteria, hitting two students. Two other students were injured either by shrapnel or while running away. Authorities did not give a motive.

The Associated Press generally does not identify juveniles charged with crimes, but Hancock’s name was widely reported.

Defense attorney Charles Rittgers said Hancock’s family was “in shock” after the shooting because the teen did not have a history of violence or of causing trouble.

Hancock was indicted in March as a juvenile under a serious youthful offender classification on charges of attempted murder, felonious assault and inducing panic. His attorney entered not-guilty pleas on his behalf.

Gmoser said the grand jury had the option of indicting Hancock as an adult but chose to charge him under the juvenile classification.

The serious juvenile offender status results in a blended sentence with both juvenile and adult charges, which is rare. Hancock’s attorney said his client will be in a juvenile detention center until he turns 21, and if he stays out of trouble, the adult sentence would go away. If not, a prosecutor can file a motion to move him to adult court and he could face dozens of years in prison.

When the judge sentences Hancock, he will hand out the juvenile sentence and the adult sentence. But the judge would then stay the adult sentence. Hancock would be free with no probation after he gets out of juvenile detention unless he causes trouble, and then the judge could revoke the stay.

The judge reiterated to the court that he was not bound by any plea agreement.

Sentencing was scheduled for June 6.