A 12-year-old Milwaukee boy allegedly shot and killed a neighbor he played video games with after the man refused to sell guns to the boy.
And now the boy is being charged as an adult with first-degree intentional homicide.
Brandon Felton, 34, of Milwaukee was found in his home with a gunshot wound to his head on March 18, three days after being shot. Police traced the incident back to the boy after finding a receipt for a pizza delivery made under the boy’s cell phone number.
The criminal complaint alleges the boy had been communicating with at least one other individual for almost a week about taking a shotgun and an AR-15-style gun that Felton apparently had in his possession. And text messages from the moments leading up to the shooting allegedly show the boy considering whether or not to harm Felton.
The Journal Sentinel is not identifying the boy at this time because of his age and the circumstances of the case. An attorney who represented him during an initial appearance Monday declined to comment.
Attempts to reach Felton’s family were not successful Tuesday.
Milwaukee County Judge Nidhi Kashyap set the boy’s cash bail at $100,000 Monday. He is not in custody at the Milwaukee County Jail and is likely being held at the county’s juvenile detention facility.
The case comes about four months after Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office charged a 10-year-old boy with homicide in adult court in the shooting death of his own mother. Still in its early stages, the case has drawn scrutiny from activists calling on the case to be moved to juvenile court, where more rehabilitative resources would be made available.
It is rare for children to be charged with homicide in Wisconsin, but not unprecedented. State law requires children as young as 10 to be charged as adults for certain serious crimes, at least to start the case. That includes charges of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
Pizza receipt led police to the boy
According to the criminal complaint:
On March 18, Felton was found inside his home on the 3300 block of N. 38th Street when a cousin of his went to check on him after he didn’t return any text messages or phone calls for several days. The cousin found Felton’s door unlocked and the trunk of his car wide open.
After finding a phone number on a receipt for a pizza delivery to Felton’s home on March 15, police were able to connect it to the boy because the number made a 911 call on March 7 and the boy provided his name.
Police called the number and eventually arranged a meeting with him and his mother.
The boy told police his grandmother lives on the same street as Felton and would play video games with him and other kids. He confirmed the phone number in question belonged to him.
The boy initially denied ever placing a food order that evening or being in Felton’s home. He didn’t know if Felton was “beefing” with anyone but knew that he had a handgun and an AR-15 in the home.
After being pushed by police, the boy later claimed he was in the home and witnessed a friend named “Sam” shoot Felton before making off with his AR-15 and shotgun.
Police searched the boy’s phone and found messages where he used slang terms to describe an idea for a robbery of an AR-15. The messages the boy sent included a location pin drop for Felton’s home.
On March 20, the boy’s mother told police her son lied to detectives and that he was scared. She said her son and his friends went to Felton’s home to buy guns, but Felton refused to do so, so they decided to take them and go to a friend’s house.
Text messages show that at 3:31 p.m. the day of the shooting, the boy said “I’m gonna do it to Brandan (sic).” About six hours later, the boy texted with another person, saying he has a gun and is thinking about killing Felton.
The other person texted back, “Noooo. Go in da bathroom n call me.”
The boy replied he was going to “belt” Felton because he didn’t want him to retaliate against the boy’s family.
The texts then suggest the boy was picked up outside the home at about 9:30 p.m.
Location data on the boy’s phone showed he was at Felton’s home at about 7 p.m., when the pizza was ordered, and remained there for about two and a half hours, until 9:30 p.m. He then left for an area on the city’s northwest side, but returned to Felton’s home after a half-hour.
The phone then moved to the boy’s mother’s home another half-hour later.
Fewer protections for youth defendants in Wisconsin
On top of requirements that children as young as 10 be charged as adults for certain serious offenses, Wisconsin is one of three states that require all 17-year-old defendants to be charged as adults.
Craig Mastantuono, an attorney who defended a 10-year-old boy charged in the Charlie Young beating case in the 2000s, told the Journal Sentinel in November the state created requirements such as those in the 1990s in reaction to perceptions of crime that have since become better understood.
“We placed ourselves in a harsh minority when it comes to juvenile crime in the 90s and we’ve never revisited that,” he said in November. “Saying that someone should belong in the juvenile system doesn’t mean that you’re an apologist for the action.”
A child’s attorney can seek to move the case into juvenile court but must prove the child cannot get adequate treatment in the adult system; moving the case to juvenile court would not “depreciate the seriousness of the offense;” and staying in adult court is not necessary to deter other children from similar offenses.
Adult court carries much longer terms of imprisonment than juvenile court, which focuses on rehabilitation and offers more services. State law also offers more privacy protections to children and teens charged in juvenile court and allows for the withholding of defendants’ names to the public.
Ashley Luthern of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.
Contact Elliot Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414-704-8958. Follow him on Twitter @elliothughes12.
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