The Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT)
April 13, 1998
Author: Associated Press
Prosecutors have not decided whether a 14-year-old boy accused of holding police at bay at the Alternate School for five hours Thursday should be charged as an adult. Mitchell Gushwa is accused of pulling a gun on teachers and students at the school for troubled youths. The standoff ended peacefully and no one was injured.
Bannock County prosecutors said Friday that the youth would be charged with second-degree kidnapping, aggravated assault, carrying a weapon onto school property, burglary and misdemeanor vandalism. Bringing a gun or any other weapon to school is an automatic adult charge, Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Mackley said. But that charge can still be tried in juvenile court. If he is convicted it would go on Gushwa’s adult record, she said, and would not be removed when he turns 18 like a juvenile offense.
Prosecutors could seek a waiver allowing them to try all the charges in adult court, Mackley said. But they were still trying to determine Gushwa’s competence to stand trial and whether the crimes and the boy’s record indicate he should be charged as an adult, she said.
The eighth-grader had been at the Alternate School for about a month and had been undergoing counseling with a psychologist. Witnesses said the boy pulled a gun out of his pants about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, shot into the wall and ordered everybody into the school’s multipurpose room. The principal, teachers and most students managed to escape from the school and only 12 to 15 students were in the building when police arrived.
Gushwa had a run-in with principal Paul Matthews the day before the standoff. The boy made threats, but Matthews said he did not expect anything to come of them. As the standoff wore on, all but four students managed to make it out of the school. The students remaining inside the school – two boys and two girls – were there voluntarily, police said.
Some evidence indicates that Gushwa was ready to give up about two hours before he did, but the remaining students persuaded him to continue the standoff so they could make their own demands, Capt. Kirk Nelson said.
The students also set off two fire extinguishers, broke a projector and a window, spilled soda pop, tipped over desks and went through personal belongings of teachers and staff, he said. The damage did not exceed $1,000.
Police questioned the four students who remained with Gushwa for about 90 minutes Thursday before releasing them to their parents.
Gushwa surrendered after trading .22-caliber and .45-caliber pistols for pizza, cigarettes and soda pop. Nelson said Gushwa allegedly stole the guns from a local home between April 2 and April 5.