Suspect in Colo. school shootings avoids prison

AP News
Posted: Nov 10, 2011 1:47 PM
Suspect in Colo. school shootings avoids prison

A man accused of wounding two children outside a Colorado school will avoid prison because his time spent in a mental hospital is being applied to the 18-month sentence he received for a weapons violation.

Prosecutors expressed frustration with the sentence for Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood Thursday.

"He won't serve a day in jail," said Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey.

Eastwood was found not guilty by reason of insanity of attempted first-degree murder but convicted of having a weapon on school grounds. He was sentenced on the weapons charge Thursday.

Storey said Eastwood will remain at the state hospital for an indeterminate time until he is deemed legally sane and released.

Storey added that the average stay in the state hospital for homicide cases is 7 1/2 years and that in Eastwood's case, it could be less. His case will be reviewed every six months

The judge said his hands are tied by state law.

Patricia Nelson, mother of Matt Thieu, who was shot in the chest and suffered a wound the size of a saucer plate while running away, said her relationship with her son has not been the same since the shooting.

"He gets mad very easy. The shooting has changed his whole life," she said, wiping away tears.

Deborah Weber read a letter to the court from her daughter, Reagan, who said she looked into Eastwood's eyes when he turned his rifle on her and didn't understand the hatred she saw. She said she felt pain in her arm and realized she had been shot.

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"I thought about going to heaven," she said in her statement.

Math teacher David Benke, who jumped on Eastwood and stopped the shooting, was praised by Judge Christopher Munch as a hero who possibly prevented a mass slaughter.

Benke said there have been school shootings before, but everything changed after the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School left 13 people dead. He said Eastwood's actions also traumatized other students and teachers who ran screaming down the halls and hid in rooms, scared they would be next.

In a soft voice, Eastwood told the judge in a brief statement he was sorry and apologized to the victims and their parents.

"I hurt a lot of people," he said.