WAUSEON REPORTER Enlarge
WAUSEON — City police say a 13-year-old boy was shot to death Wednesday by a Wauseon Middle School classmate in an incident they have classified as an accident, but one that is likely to result in charges against the shooter.
Michael J. Schwartz, a seventh grader at the middle school, had been shot in the chest just before 7 a.m. and was dead on arrival at Fulton County Health Center, Police Chief Keith Torbet said during a news conference about nine hours after the shooting at 444 Howard Ave. was reported to authorities.
“We do not believe that it was done with any malicious intent,” but the juvenile suspect still is likely to be charged with either reckless or negligent homicide, Chief Torbet said.
He withheld the shooter’s name pending the filing of formal charges, which he said could occur as early as Thursday, but said the boy was being held in juvenile detention.
Young Schwartz lived in Wauseon, but the police chief declined to disclose his family’s address.
The shooting occurred at the home of a third boy, also unnamed by police. But Chief Torbet said all three were classmates at the middle school, which is about a half mile from that home.
The third boy was questioned by police, but then released.
An adult who lived at the house had just left to go to work when the shooting occurred, the police chief said.
County land records identify the owners of 444 Howard as Brent and Michelle Neuenschwander, but it was unknown if they were the current occupants.
The police chief said he also would disclose more details about events leading up to the shooting once charges had been filed, as well as a description of the gun. He said he did not yet know to whom the gun belonged.
The shooting is “something I would hope people will learn from,” Chief Torbet said. “But there is nothing I believe the Wauseon Police Department could have done to prevent this accident from occurring.”
School officials called extra counselors to the school, including guidance counselors from other Wauseon schools and several community pastors.
Two recently retired school counselors also volunteered to come in, principal Joseph Friess said, “which was great, because they know the kids.”
Michele Leatherman, the school’s guidance counselor, said there was “a pretty steady flow all morning and all afternoon” of students wanting to talk about the shooting, with a prevailing mixture of sadness and shock.
Rather than asking many questions, she said, “they were just coping with the emotions they were feeling, focusing on their memories of Michael and their friendships with him.”
Ms. Leatherman described the boy as “kind of a jokester, but in a good way — he was funny, outgoing, and friendly.” Mr. Friess said he was a “pretty consistent” student who was well-known.
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The principal said that in his 10 years at the middle school, he could not recall anything “even remotely close to anything like this” happening to a student — not even a car accident.
Mr. Friess said a memorial banner had been created that was available for students to sign and will eventually be displayed in the school cafeteria “or someplace high-visibility” in Michael’s honor. Several of the counselors will return to the school Thursday morning in case there are any students still needing help with grieving, he said.
The incident was called in as a drive-by shooting, but the police chief said arriving officers determined that not to be true.
Matt Willeman, who lives several houses away on the opposite side of Howard, said he was awakened shortly before 7 by “a bunch of ruckus outside,” apparently after the shooting had occurred. He then received a telephone call from a friend who had heard the drive-by shooting rumor and inquired about his safety.
“That was the biggest concern. We live on a one-block street, and we hardly get any cars,” Mr. Willeman said.
Contact David Patch at:
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Suspect to be charged as a juvenile in Wauseon shooting that killed 13-year-old.