Roswell school shooter gets maximum sentence

Posted at: 07/02/2014 10:47 AM
Updated at: 07/02/2014 5:06 PM
By: Elizabeth Reed,

The boy who shot two students at a Roswell school in January will be placed under supervision and rehabilitation custody with the state's Children, Youth and Families Department until age 21.

Mason Campbell received the maximum sentence in Chaves County court on Wednesday. CYFD will determine the appropriate juvenile facility placement for Campbell and his rehabilitation. Campbell could be released sooner by the department.

The boy apologized to both victims during the hearing.

"I am very sorry for my actions. This is not what I meant to do," Campbell said. "I'm very sorry Kendal, Nathaniel, Mr. Hayes."

The then 12-year-old boy brought a sawed-off shotgun to Berrendo Middle School on Jan. 14 and opened fire in the gym, wounding 12-year-old Nathaniel Tavarez and 13-year-old Kendal Sanders.

Campbell pleaded no contest to three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and one count of unlawfully carrying a weapon on school grounds in May.

"It's a miracle that I'm alive right now," Tavarez said at the stand, gripping his glasses while holding his statement close. He was shot in the face and said his eyesight has not completely returned.

"My vision is still seriously impaired, but there is hope. I have conquered many things the doctors said I never would," Tavarez said.

Special prosecutor Matt Chandler read Sanders' statement for her while she stood at the podium with Tavarez.

"I have forgiven Mason for this, but what he has done is not OK," Sanders wrote.

She said she has more than 150 lead pellets in her body and may never be able to have children. The pellets cause lead poisoning and make her sick and tired.

"I have to see those scars every single day for the rest of my life," she wrote.

"(Mason) will be able to live the rest of his life the way he wants, even have a family," she concluded.

Chandler brought more than 15 other people to the stand to talk about the day of the shooting and the lasting impacts on the victims.

New Mexico State Police Lt. Gary Smith spoke first. He was dropping his son off at school and ended up being the first officer on the scene.

"In my mind, it was an adult shooter," Smith said. "Never in my mind did I think it would be a child."

Berrendo's security guard choked back tears as he took the stand.

"Although I sustained only minor injuries, I received emotional and mental illness," Kevin Hayes said. "The heartache of seeing the damage to Nathaniel and Kendal has stayed with me."

The teacher who helped Tavarez after he was shot called the incident a "very deliberate act of violence" and urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence.

Prosecutor Chandler also read from a notebook he said belonged to Campbell. In the notebook, Campbell wrote that bullying pushed him to want to bring a gun to school. He wrote about one student in particular who he wanted to kill. Neither Kendal nor Nathaniel was identified as the bully.

"The crime I'm going to do is take dad's pistol. I'm going to shoot him three times. I will only have three bullets. I will then surrender," Chandler read from Campbell's notebook.

But Campbell could not find the pistol, according to the notebook, and instead planned to slit the student's throat during the Pledge of Allegiance. In his final entry, Chandler said Campbell wrote he had a change of plans and was bringing a sawed-off shotgun to school.

"So instead of just going to kill him, I'm just going to run into the gym and just take bird shots at different groups of people," he wrote.

The notebook entry also mentioned that school would be "fun."

The prosecutor sought the maximum sentence for Campbell, which would keep him in a juvenile detention facility until he is 21 years old.

Later in the afternoon, Campbell's attorney brought eight witnesses to testify at the stand.

"I want to apologize to you. We are so sorry this happened to you," Campbell's grandfather, Robert Bowles, said to Sanders and Tavarez.

"He has a kind and gentle soul. He has a lot he can give to society, and I pray he gets the help he needs," Bowles said at the end of his testimony.

Campbell's mother urged the judge to consider the bullying her son underwent. She said she had no idea how much misery and pain he had suffered.

"This is a child who was tortured and bullied on a daily basis... I want you to realize that he is a child," Jennifer Campbell said. "I also want you to realize he has not stopped praying for Nathaniel and Kendal and Mr. Hayes."

Campbell's attorneys sought a sentence of two years in treatment. According to a pre-sentencing memo, a psychologist who evaluated Campbell recommended that the boy be in a setting that is therapeutic, well-structured and supervised near his family, specifically the Lincoln Pines Youth Center.

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