Boy charged in fatal school bus shooting waives right to appear in court

Juvenile charged in fatal shooting of teenage girl on school bus in Miami-Dade

By Terrell Forney - Reporter

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - A Homestead teen, who is charged with fatally shooting Lourdes Guzman, 13, in front of her younger sister and several other students while riding the bus to school Tuesday morning, waived his right to appear in court on Wednesday.

The public defender for Jordyn Alexander Howe, 15, argued on Wednesday the State violated the 24-hour policy, which says a juvenile must face a judge within 24 hours of being detained.

Howe was detained around 7 a.m. on Tuesday but was not arraigned until 9 a.m. on Wednesday, so the public defender argued he should be released to his parents.

Prosecutors argued Howe was not arrested until 5 p.m., which makes him well within the parameters of the 24-hour rule and should be kept behind bars with no bond.

The judge will hold a future hearing to address the issue.

Alexander was taken into custody at the scene in Homestead and later charged with manslaughter and carrying a concealed firearm.

Police said the shooting appears to be accidental.

"It does appear to be an accident. He did have a gun, he was handling the gun and there was a discharge of the weapon," said Miami-Dade Police Det. Roy Rutland, on Tuesday night.

WATCH: Classmates gather at scene of shooting

READ: Classmates remember shooting victim

Tuesday night, police said Howe had smuggled a handgun onto the bus inside a bag, and while showing it somehow fired it.

"He had it in some sort of bag, removed it, and that's when the weapon killed this girl," said Det. Rutland.

"Are his parents facing any charges?" asked Local 10's Ross Palombo Tuesday night.

"No, it doesn't appear that way," said Det. Rutland.

Homicide detectives questioned Howe at Miami-Dade Police Department Headquarters, and then transported him to a Juvenile Assessment Center. His family and the victim's family were also at the police department earlier on Tuesday, but were being kept in separate areas.

Guzman was shot in the area of SW 296th Street and 137th Avenue about 6:45 a.m.

According to Miami-Dade County Police, the girl was riding in a private, chartered school bus when the shooting occurred.

Zabaleta said Guzman, a student at Palm Glades Preparatory School, was airlifted to Miami Children's Hospital, where she died. Four Miami-Dade Police officers were at Miami Children's Hospital shortly after the shooting.

WATCH: Local 10's Carlos Suarez interviews Zabaleta

The bus was carrying eight other students from three different charter schools -- Somerset Academy Silver Palms, Summerville Charter School, and Palm Glades Preparatory Academy. Among those other students was Guzman's 7-year-old sister. That girl attends Summerville Charter School. None of the other students were injured.

Police took the children and the bus driver to a police station to be interviewed.

"You got to realize one thing, we're dealing with small children, so the questioning process is going to be a lot different. Children, they're already shaken up from what they just witnessed and on top of that you have no question them so this is going to take a slow and tedious process," said Zabaleta.

Most of the children were released Tuesday afternoon to their parents.

"She's okay. I'm just happy she's okay," one mother told Local 10's Terrell Forney. "I just saw her and she hasn't said anything. I'm just happy that she's here with me. She's already scared."

Others were forced to wait during the afternoon.

"Just waiting for them to let me take them home," said Maria Romero, whose two children were on the bus. "I just wanted to see that they're fine."

"It's traumatic for them for what they had to witness to begin with and now you're going to have to question them to ask them exactly what they saw," said Zabaleta. "You know, it's tragic. Anytime it deals with a child, and then, of course, when we get the phone call that they confirmed that she passed away, it's very sad."

Concerned parents gathered at the shooting site, which was cordoned off by crime scene tape as authorities combed the bus for evidence and gathered children's backpacks and belongings. The shooting occurred about seven minutes away from the school.

Fabian Otero said he was relieved his son Christian, an eighth-grader at Palm Glades, rode to school with his wife. He said he and his wife have been shaken by the killing and are going to discuss enrolling their son in a different school or possibly homeschooling him.

"I was stunned! I was stunned!" he said. "That hits really close to home. That's just scary."

Local 10's Carlos Suarez spoke to the mother of a student who was also riding the bus at the time. She said the driver had just started the route when the shooting happened.

"I'm lucky that my daughter had a cellphone and I'm able to talk to her and that she's okay and my other daughter's okay and I'm just praying that the other -- whoever it is that went to the hospital, that they're okay," said Maria Ramiro.

About a dozen parents picked up their children early, said Lynn Norman-Teck, a spokeswoman for Florida Consortium of Public Charter School. Only a throng of TV news crews camped outside signaled the violence from earlier in the morning.

Many of the students had not heard about the shooting and the school did not make an announcement before school was dismissed, but word started to trickle out as they walked outside to waiting school buses.

Thirteen-year-old Eric Carillo said he was in the same class as the victim a few years ago.

"She was a good girl. She was fun," the 13-year-old said.

Sarah Baer said she wouldn't let her daughter walk home from school because there are rough neighborhoods a few blocks away.

"I always take my daughter to and from school. This is so heartbreaking especially right before Thanksgiving," she said.

The school bus was not equipped with video surveillance equipment.

A phone message left for the private school bus company was not immediately returned.

Howe faces one count of manslaughter and one count carrying a concealed firearm. Both are felonies. Howe has not been charged as an adult.

Copyright 2012 by Post Newsweek. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.