- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Students at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast said yesterday they were disappointed that a fellow student was acquitted in the shooting death of another inside the school, and that they do not feel any safer since the incident.

A jury on Monday acquitted Thomas J. Boykin, 19, of first- and second-degree murder charges stemming from the Feb. 2 fatal shooting of James Richardson, 17, that occurred inside the school.

“I think he should have gotten life in prison,” said Jaquan Blake, 14, of Northeast, after leaving school yesterday afternoon. “It was partly self-defense, but he shouldn’t have gotten off with no time. He might come back and do it again.”

Jurors also cleared Boykin — who was 18 at the time of the incident — of assault with intent to kill. They found Boykin guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm and carrying an unlicensed pistol.

However, jurors could not reach a verdict on a manslaughter charge, for which prosecutors plan to retry him. A D.C. Superior Court judge tentatively scheduled a trial for April 4.

During the trial, Boykin took the stand in his own defense, testifying that he thought James was reaching for a gun or knife. Boykin told the court he accidentally shot himself while pulling out his gun, which caused him to panic.

The fight between the two boys likely was due to an ongoing dispute between groups of students from the Condon Terrace and Barry Farms neighborhoods in Southeast, authorities said.

Destiny Brodie, a 16-year-old from Southwest, said she doesn’t feel safe because of possible retaliation against Boykin, should the youth return to school.

“No, I don’t [feel safe], because they’ll probably come after him now,” Destiny said.

Melissa Holland, a computer applications teacher at Ballou, agreed that tensions between some students often begin outside the school.

“The kids are kind of upset and a little unruly, but they’re not at the point where they’re fighting,” Mrs. Holland said. “It’s possibly related to the verdict. You have to understand this stuff didn’t start at the school, it started at home.”

Jaquan said while improved, the security at the school is still lax enough for a weapon to be sneaked into the building. “You’ve got to put [blame] on security a little, because he shouldn’t have been able to get a gun in there,” he said. “There’s still ways to get a gun in there.”

Tyree Speigat, a 16-year-old from Southwest, said he doesn’t feel safe when he is outside the school at 3401 4th St. S.E.

“When I’m in school I feel safe because all the doors are locked, but when I come to school or I’m going to the bus I feel unsafe,” he said.

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