Mother of Reno teen shot by school police wants explanation

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2016 3:32 AM

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The mother of a 14-year-old Reno boy who was shot and wounded by a school district police officer wants the superintendent to explain why campus officers aren't better equipped with non-lethal weapons.

Cheryl Pitchford was among the group of 100 classmates, friends and family of the hospitalized teen who marched to the school district headquarters on the edge of downtown Wednesday afternoon to deliver a petition demanding all campus police carry Tasers and pepper spray.

Reno police say the boy was threatening others with knives when a campus officer shot him in the chest Dec. 7 while surrounded by dozens of students in a school courtyard.

He last was reported in critical but stable condition. His lawyer, David Houston, said earlier he was in a medically induced coma after undergoing surgery for a stroke on Friday.

District officials have refused to say if campus officers typically carry non-lethal weapons. They say they can't comment while an investigation continues into the officer-involved shooting that many Hug High students captured on cellphone video and posted on social media.

Demick La Flamme, the father of a friend of the teen who was shot, organized the march. He said he's gathered more than 1,000 signatures on the petition that says "lethal force should always be a last resort."

"Nothing is worse than shooting into a crowd of children," La Flamme told The Associated Press before they began the 2-mile trek escorted by Reno police cruisers and a half-dozen officers on bicycles along city streets north of U.S. Interstate 80.

Pitchford later joined La Flamme and more than a dozen others who jammed into the reception area at the school district headquarters to demand someone formally accept the petition. She showed school officials a cellphone photo of her son with an oxygen mask and other tubes in a hospital bed while pleading for Washoe County School District Superintendent Traci Davis to come forward and better explain what had happened.

Davis said at a news conference a day after the shooting that the school's emergency response plans worked "flawlessly" and praised the officers' "who acted swiftly to protect the safety of our students." She's had no comment since she said in a statement Friday that she still believes "the officer's judgment saved other students from deadly force."

Pitchford, whose last name is different than that of her son, said Wednesday she was not seeking an apology from the superintendent.

"She wasn't there. It's not her fault," Pitchford said. "It's her fault for not coming out and saying maybe that there was another way, or maybe it was not flawless — like she said in her news conference or whatever she had. Because she wasn't there. She didn't know."

Irene Payne, the school district's chief of communications who accepted the petition from La Flamme and Pitchford, told AP she couldn't immediately comment on the equipment campus officers typically carry.