Ex-student pleads guilty in Va. college shooting

AP News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2011 2:50 PM
Ex-student pleads guilty in Va. college shooting

A former college student upset about his failing math grade pleaded guilty Monday to attempted murder for shooting at his professor in a community-college classroom.

Jason M. Hamilton, 21, of Manassas, has been jailed since December 2009 after he opened fire on the Woodbridge campus of Northern Virginia Community College. At a plea hearing Monday, Prince William Police Det. Brian Cavanaugh said Hamilton fired two rifle shots at his professor, Tatyana Kravchuk, because he was upset with his grade. No one was hurt.

Cavanaugh testified that Hamilton had been carrying a recently purchased hunting rifle in a hockey bag to other classes the day of the shooting. He waited outside Kravchuk's classroom and walked in shortly after the afternoon class began.

The first shot hit a blackboard behind Kravchuk, who ducked under her desk. The second shot hit the wall behind her, Cavanaugh said. Hamilton later described the shots to police as flying "way over her head."

Hamilton was preparing to fire a third shot when the rifle malfunctioned, Cavanaugh said.

Police found Hamilton sitting in a chair outside the classroom. When they approached him, he told police, "I am the shooter."

Cavanaugh described Hamilton as quiet and cooperative when he explained his actions to detectives and told police the shootings were "a way to release pent up anger."

At Monday's hearing, Hamilton said little except "Yes, ma'am" as he answered questions from Circuit Court Judge Mary Grace O'Brien about whether he understood the implications of his guilty plea. Hamilton had initially been scheduled to plead guilty March 14, but the hearing was postponed because his lawyer said they needed more time to review the plea with Hamilton because of his mental health problems.

After Monday's hearing, defense lawyer Juan Estevez said Hamilton had serious mental health problems, which he declined to discuss in detail.

He said he hoped the court would consider those mental health issues when Hamilton is sentenced Sept. 9.

Hamilton could face anywhere from two to 20 years in prison under Virginia law.

Prosecutor Paul Ebert has said a that doctor determined Hamilton has mental health problems as part of a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, but that he is not criminally insane.