FRESNO, Calif. — A 16-year-old student who was teased by his California high school classmates for his red hair, social awkwardness and bookish appearance will be tried as an adult on charges of wounding a classmate with a shotgun and trying to target another.
Bryan Oliver will face two counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a firearm in the attack Thursday at Taft Union High School that left another 16-year-old wounded, the Kern County district attorney's office said.
"It was just the factors of the case," said Mark Pafford, the chief deputy district attorney, about the decision to charge Mr. Oliver as an adult. "The severity of the actions, the injuries to the victim, that a firearm was used. Those are the things we considered."
The potential penalty for just one count of attempted murder with a firearm is 32 years to life, Mr. Pafford said. If he had been charged as a juvenile and convicted, he would be held until his 23rd birthday.
Mr. Oliver had been bullied by the two classmates he is accused of targeting, according to a witness who knows the teen.
"They called him a ginger and said gingers don't have souls," said Morgan Alldredge, a friend of both Mr. Oliver and one of the targets, who was in the classroom during the shooting. "I was his friend. I don't know why people picked on him. He was misunderstood."
A next-door-neighbor whose son tutored Mr. Oliver in college prep classes described him as a "genius" who was relentlessly bullied by other students in the remote San Joaquin Valley town surrounded by tumbleweed-covered oil fields. Others told the Associated Press that he further ostracized himself by making inappropriate statements, almost for shock value.
On Thursday morning, witnesses say, Mr. Oliver walked into a science classroom just as his classmates were finishing an oceanography test and quickly fired one round from a Winchester 12-gauge shotgun, striking a 16-year-old student athlete in the chest. He suffered injuries that were serious but not life-threatening.
Morgan said that as chaos erupted, teacher Ryan Heber pulled out his cellphone, discretely dialed a number and said, "Bryan don't shoot." She thinks he was alerting someone about the crisis.
A second round was fired at students trying to flee, but no one was struck. Morgan said Mr. Oliver then spoke his first words: "All I want is Jacob," referring to Morgan's ex-boyfriend, whom she said had teased the suspect in the past.
The witness said Mr. Heber talked Mr. Oliver into dropping the weapon, and campus security administrator Kim Fields grabbed the student in a bear hug.
Investigators have declined to comment on claims by many students that Mr. Oliver had been suspended from the school last year for making a hit list of students he wished to harm.