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Eastwood charged with 4 attempted-murder counts in Deer Creek shootings

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By Emile Hallez

 

Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood is facing a variety of charges, including four counts of attempted murder, in the shootings at Deer Creek Middle School on Feb. 23.

Eastwood, 32, a former student at the school, was advised of the charges against him in Jefferson County Court on March 2.

Eastwood is charged with four counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of a crime of violence, four counts of first-degree assault, two counts of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon on school grounds. Judge Thomas Vance is presiding over the case.

Eastwood faces a possible sentence of up to 97 years if convicted on all charges. Eastwood is charged with two counts of attempted murder for each victim. Two of the charges reflect intent to cause death, and two contain language citing extreme indifference to the value of human life.

Eastwood appeared in court March 2 via a videoconference from the Jeffco jail, where he is being held on a $1 million cash-only bond. A preliminary hearing will be scheduled within the next month.

District Attorney Scott Storey is personally handling the case along with two other prosecutors.

“I like trying cases. It’s a matter of resources,” Storey said, though he would not elaborate specifically on why he chose to personally prosecute the case. “Why not?” he said.

The suspect is accused of firing two shots from a high-powered bolt-action rifle outside the middle school, injuring eighth-graders Reagan Weber and Matt Thieu, before being tackled and subdued by math teacher David Benke. Both students were taken to Littleton Adventist Hospital, and Thieu was transferred Children’s Hospital in Aurora, from which he was discharged late on March 1.

Eastwood was arrested Feb. 23 at the crime scene on suspicion of two counts of first-degree attempted homicide.

Authorities have not publicly disclosed a potential motive in the shootings, though Eastwood was a student at the school from 1990 through 1992. He entered the building sometime before the shooting, signed in at the front desk and spoke with at least one faculty member. Eastwood exited the school, and shortly after the attack began.

It is not clear how much of a role Eastwood’s mental state will have in the outcome of the case. Eastwood’s father, War Eagle, has spoken freely about his son’s behavior, having noted Eastwood displayed unusual behavior recently. Eastwood sometimes yelled at imaginary friends, he said.

“It’s too early to tell,” Storey said of a possible defense plea of insanity. “It’s the very beginning stages of this case.”

Eastwood is unemployed, though he worked at his father’s Hudson ranch in exchange for room and board.

A media request to unseal Eastwood’s arrest affidavit is being considered by the judge. Vance denied, however, a request for expanded media coverage, including cameras and other electronic devices in the courtroom, during the hearing.

“The court is not prepared to make a decision on this matter today,” he said. “I will issue my opinion in a reasonable amount of time.”

The Feb. 23 shooting took place sometime between 3:10 and 3:14 p.m., shortly after the end of the school day. The Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call at 3:14 and responded at the scene, along with the Colorado State Patrol and FBI.

Deer Creek Middle School and neighboring Stony Creek Elementary were placed on lockdown, and about 30 students remained in the middle school. Students were released to the elementary school, where they waited to be signed out by parents, after law enforcement officials declared the scene safe. Most of Deer Creek’s students were outside of the school at the time of the shootings, either on their way home or sitting on buses. Children scattered after hearing the gunshots, taking shelter in nearby cars or in neighborhoods.

Stony Creek was reopened two days later, though Deer Creek remained closed until Feb. 26, during which time the building held an open house for students, parents and faculty. The middle school reopened Monday with a normal class schedule.

 

Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.