Crime

Suspected Graham-Kapowsin High shooter charged as adult

Fight leads to shooting of two students at Graham-Kapowsin High School

Two Graham-Kapowsin High School students were shot just off campus Tuesday afternoon, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
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Two Graham-Kapowsin High School students were shot just off campus Tuesday afternoon, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

A 16-year-old who allegedly shot two students near Graham-Kapowsin High School on Dec. 5 was charged as an adult Tuesday.

Ronald Douglas Ackerson Jr., of Lakewood, turned himself in at the Remann Hall juvenile detention center Monday. Pierce County prosecutors then charged him with two counts of first-degree assault, drive-by shooting and second-degree unlawful gun possession.

They allege Ackerson wounded a 16-year-old boy and 17-year-old boy when he fired into a crowd of students gathered near the school for a fistfight.

Both victims, who were bystanders, survived.

Ackerson pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon in Superior Court, and Commissioner Meagan Foley set bail at $350,000.

He was charged as an adult under state law because of his age and the seriousness of the crime.

Defense Attorney Edward DeCosta argued the state law that automatically put Ackerson in adult court, without a hearing, violated his constitutional rights to due process and against cruel and unusual punishment.

Instead, the teenager’s case should be handled in juvenile court, and he should be in juvenile detention pending trial, the attorney said.

Foley denied those requests but granted another motion from DeCosta that media not be allowed to film Ackerson’s face.

“This case does have an issue with regard to identity, I believe,” DeCosta told the court.

Ackerson has no prior convictions but does have a pending case in juvenile court for allegedly obstructing a police officer. Prosecutors said he missed a court date for that case the day before the shooting and had a warrant out for his arrest.

DeCosta told the court that case involved Ackerson allegedly hiding under the stairs of a neighbor’s home.

He also said Ackerson has a supportive family who was present in court.

A woman in that group spoke briefly to reporters on the teenager’s behalf and said she believes the system “is designed for our youth to fail.”

Charging papers gave this account of the shooting:

The day before, two girls had an altercation in the school cafeteria. Another student told the boyfriend of one of the girls that he needed to control her.

The boyfriend responded with a derogatory comment, and the dispute escalated to the gathering behind the school the next day.

When the students decided not to fight, the boyfriend, Ackerson and a third student started to leave in a car. That’s when Ackerson fired into the crowd from the front passenger seat.

Deputy prosecutor Greg Greer said at the arraignment that there were “perhaps 20 teenagers” in the crowd at the time.

The two other boys in the car, both 17, were arrested in connection to the shooting last week. They were released Monday without being charged.

The Sheriff’s Department said detectives still are investigating and looking for another teenager they want to question.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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