ST. LOUIS — This week, a 7-year-old was shot in the leg while trying to burglarize a house with two 12-year-old accomplices.
So what’s next for them?
St. Louis police officers did something called "X-booking" the youth involved in this case.
That means they were not taken into custody.
They have not been put into juvenile detention.
Essentially, officers wrote referrals to the juvenile court system.
But those pieces of paper could play out very differently for all of the children involved – and even their parents.
Juvenile court authorities would not comment on this specific case. They can’t. These kids are still kids after all.
They have their whole lives ahead of them.
But generally speaking, these referrals pair each child with a juvenile officer who can connect them with a variety of social services including counseling, life skills training, tutoring, said Thom Gross, a spokesman for the courts.
Juvenile court authorities also have a category for children younger than 11 who are involved in crimes.
In 2019, three of the kids who fell into this category were charged with felonies, Gross said.
Detention is not likely for kids this young, Gross said, but each case must be weighed on its merit.
Even when it comes to an offender as young as 7?
“Clearly detention is not in anybody’s interest,” Gross noted.
As for the 12-year-olds, their consequences could be more serious.
Because they are older than 11, their families may have to pay restitution. They could have to perform community service. Or both.
And depending on what the evidence shows, they could also be charged with aggravated assault – a felony.
In Missouri, a person who is involved in a crime in which their accomplice is injured or killed gets charged with the assault or homicide.
In other words, if two guys go into a store to rob it, and the store owner shoots and kills one of them, their accomplice gets charged with the homicide.
So, in this case, all of the kids could be facing charges of aggravated assault.
The 7-year-old got shot. And one of the 12-year-olds was also injured, either grazed by the bullet or hit by debris, police have said.
So that’s two possible aggravated assault charges for each of these kids.
And there’s also the unanswered question about the parents of these children, and what they could be facing.
Were they neglectful?
That’s a crime.
But there could be other factors at play here.
So many kids are unsupervised right now as their parents are working from home – or going to work because they’re considered essential and need their jobs – and their kids are not in school because of the pandemic.
Only the evidence will show if the parents are at fault in any way for this.
As for the man who shot the child?
Charges do not appear likely based on what’s known about the case at this point.
In Missouri, the Castle doctrine protects homeowners who defend themselves or their property with lethal force.
Police say the 23-year-old man was living in the home while remodeling it, and the sound of the smashing glass startled him.
He fired only one shot.
And it will change the course of all of these children’s lives.
Hopefully for the better.
Watch for Christine Byers' column every Friday. She will go beyond the headlines of the top stories in St. Louis
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