A teenager who opened fire at a rural New Mexico library last year will plead guilty in the August 2017 shooting that killed two librarians and injured four other people, authorities said on Tuesday.
Under an agreement signed by Nathaniel Ray Jouett, the Clovis teenager will plead guilty to a total of 30 charges — including two counts of first-degree murder, and multiple counts of child abuse and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, said District Attorney Andrea Reeb.
A plea hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Jouett, now 17, had been a sophomore at Clovis High School in the New Mexico city of just 39 000 people near Texas border at the time of the shooting. His attorney said the teen agreed to plead guilty to all counts to avoid a lengthy trial that could have further distressed victims.
Authorities had identified more than 100 witnesses to the shooting.
"There's a reason Nathaniel is doing this and the primary reason is to avoid any more trauma for the victims," said defence attorney Stephen Taylor. "All he's seeking is an opportunity for treatment, which he desperately needs."
The Associated Press generally does not identify juveniles charged with crimes as a matter of policy. It has identified Jouett, however, because of the seriousness of the crime.
Taylor has filed a motion advocating for him to be sentenced as a juvenile, saying he is prepared to present scientific research showing that 16-year-old adolescent brains can limit their perceptions and self-control.
Under New Mexico law, 14-year-olds convicted of first-degree murder are guaranteed a hearing to determine whether they should be sentenced as juveniles or as adults. Juveniles between 15 and 17 are not.
Targeted school out of anger
Prosecutors said last year that suicide notes were found at Jouett's home, and the teen's pastor also has said he contemplated suicide several months earlier.
Jouett told investigators he had been thinking "bad things" for some time and initially planned to target his school because he was angry, court documents said. The teen said he didn't know why he went to the library and that he didn't know the victims.
Jouett's father called Clovis police when he discovered two handguns missing and reported his son missing, but the shooting had already happened.
Asked by investigators what Nathaniel Jouett was thinking during the shooting, he said, "I was mad."
The teen also said during the interview that no one liked him, and he had thought he would kill himself or "kill a bunch of people", the court records said.
Police said Jouett did not resist officers after they arrived at the library.
The two workers killed were circulation assistant Wanda Walters, 61, and youth services librarian Kristina Carter, 48.
Wounded were circulation assistant Jessica Thron, 30, and patrons Noah Molina, 10, his sister Alexis Molina, 21, and Howard Jones, 53.