- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2000

MOUNT MORRIS TOWNSHIP, Mich. A 6-year-old boy pulled a gun from his pants yesterday and fatally shot a little girl in their first-grade classroom after the two had "some sort of scuffle or quarrel on the playground," authorities said.

In front of a horrified teacher and his classmates, the boy fired a bullet from a .32-caliber gun, striking 6-year-old Kayla Rolland in the neck. She died a half-hour later.

The boy, whose name was not released, ran into a bathroom and dropped the gun into a trash can, police said. School personnel held the boy until authorities arrived. He was taken into the custody of the state child welfare agency after the shooting.

Genesee County Prosecutor Arthur A. Busch said there had been "some sort of scuffle or quarrel on the playground" between the boy and girl a day earlier.

The boy's father is serving time in the county jail and the boy lived with his mother, a man referred to as an uncle and a younger sibling, Mr. Busch said. He didn't know what the father was charged with.

Prosecutors did not say how they think the boy got the gun, though they said it had been reported stolen in December and was in the boy's home.

Last night, investigators searched the home and found another stolen firearm a 12-gauge shotgun and "some other evidence we're in the process of sorting through," Mr. Busch said. He would not elaborate.

He said five students were in the classroom of Buell Elementary in Mount Morris Township near Flint, about 60 miles from Detroit. As they prepared to leave for the library, with the teacher standing in the doorway, the boy, who had the gun tucked in his pants, pointed it at a pupil, Mr. Busch said. The boy then turned toward Kayla and fired the only bullet in the gun, the prosecutor said.

A girl who identified herself as a classmate, 6-year-old Haili Durbin, told the Associated Press that Kayla had yelled at the boy because he spit on her desk and stood on it. She was interviewed with her father present.

School Superintendent Ira A. Rutherford told reporters at the police station that the girl's version of events was inaccurate. Police Chief Eric King said he had not heard of the girl or her story. He said investigators had interviewed the children who were in the class at the time of the shooting, and she was not among them.

Regardless of what the investigation reveals, it may be impossible to bring charges against the boy, the prosecutor said. But he said someone may face charges for enabling the boy to obtain the gun.

"There is a presumption in law that a child … is not criminally responsible and can't form an intent to kill. Obviously, he has done a very terrible thing today, but legally, he can't be held criminally responsible," Mr. Busch said. "We will get to the bottom of how that gun got into that little boy's hands."

The boy is by far the youngest gunman in a series of deadly school shootings that have rocked communities around the country over the past three years. In 1998, two boys, 11 and 13, opened fire at a middle school in Jonesboro, Ark., killing four girls and a teacher.

At Buell Elementary, Freddie Booth arrived after the shooting to look for his 8-year-old daughter, Fredricka.

"I don't believe this is happening," Mr. Booth told the Flint Journal. "A first-grader shoots another first-grader. First-graders shouldn't be able to get a gun. I just want my daughter out of here. She has been traumatized, I'm sure."

About 500 children attend Buell Elementary, which is in an area of neat, small single-family homes. Other parts of the Flint suburb, which has a population of about 25,300, are more run down, with dilapidated homes and boarded-up storefronts.

"I moved out here because I'd thought it'd be safer for my grandkids," said Katherine Sutton, who has lived in the area for five years. "I thought things would be better, but I see it's not."

Classes today were canceled, but the school will be open for anyone in the community who wants counseling.

Third-grader Corey Sutton, 9, said he heard a bang and thought a desk had fallen. Then, "the principal came over the PA system and told teachers to shut their doors and lock them," he said. "I was scared, my heart was pounding."

The teacher told students to line up and get their coats on, and then "she told us what happened. A girl got shot, and the teacher started crying."

People in the community expressed alarm and sadness that the violence had hit so close to home.

"This never seems quite so real on TV," Earl Clinton said while tending to his yard. "It always seems so far away from us in Michigan. I can't believe it could happen here at an elementary school of all places."

"We're very saddened by what happened here," township Supervisor Larry Foster said.

Mr. Foster and others said many people in the community own guns, but no more than in other parts of the country.

Terry Ivey, a father of three, said gun owners have to be more responsible for preventing violence. "What kind of parent doesn't lock up their guns away from their babies?" he said. "This will never stop if folks don't treat guns like the serious killing weapons they can be."

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