By Associated Press - Thursday, January 16, 2020

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas teen who said he didn’t know a gun was loaded when he fatally shot a 14-year-old friend has been acquitted of second-degree murder.

Jurors returned the verdict Wednesday in the case against the Roeland Park teen, who was 13 years old in August when he shot and killed Zavier Mendoza in a home in nearby Olathe, The Kansas City Star reported.

The teen, who is now 14, was with with Mendoza and two other teens when they found a handgun while stealing from cars, according to testimony. Mendoza put the gun’s clip in his pocket, one of the teens told police.

The teens said they then went to the home, where the 13-year-old pointed the unloaded gun at each of them and pulled the trigger before handing the gun back to Mendoza, who put the magazine back into the weapon and handed it back to the 13-year-old, who shot Mendoza with it. The defendant told police that he didn’t realize the clip had been replaced.

In a closing statement Wednesday, assistant district attorney Don Hymer said the killing occurred during a night of lawlessness. He argued that the teen’s actions were reckless and showed extreme indifference to the value of human life.

But defense attorney Jerry Merrill argued that what happened wasn’t murder because his client didn’t know the gun was loaded.

The Star does not generally name juvenile suspects unless their cases are moved to adult court.

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