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School shooting suspect acted in self-defense, father says

victim's father
Family and friends grieve Friday with victim's father, Neal Boyd Sr., center  

GARY, Indiana (CNN) -- A 17-year-old former high school student accused of shooting and killing a 16-year-old sophomore in the parking lot of Gary, Indiana's Lew Wallace High School acted in self-defense, his father told CNN Saturday.

The victim, Neal Boyd, had been part of a group of boys who beat his son in the fall of 1999, sending him to the hospital, said Donald Ray Burt, father of Donald Ray Burt, Jr.

"They jumped on him and beat him up pretty bad," the senior Burt said.

Afraid of rematches, the junior Burt stopped attending school after the beating. Though his family tried to get him re-enrolled, he remained out of the school for more than a year.

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"My wife kept calling them; they kept saying, 'We still got to look into this.' You could tell they didn't want Ray back there."

Burt Sr. said on Friday morning his son walked the two blocks from his 18-year-old sister's apartment to the school to see the principal, with whom he had met several times, to discuss the possibility of returning to school.

His father said that when his son arrived at the parking lot around 8:15 a.m. (9:15 a.m. ET), he joined a group of students who had congregated there prior to the beginning of classes.

At that point, several of the boys who had been involved in the beating surrounded him, said his father, who spoke with Ray by telephone Friday night.

"The guy asked him was he strapping [carrying a gun]. He said, when he looked around, the dude was coming up on him. All his friends were coming up on him like they did last time. Some cars pulled up. The dude asked, 'Now what you gonna do?' They got ready to hit him. In order to try to defend himself, he shot one and ran."

CNN was not able to reach Boyd's family or school representatives to respond. A police spokeswoman said she could not comment.

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Lew Wallace High School on Friday  

Within an hour of the shooting, police showed up at his sister's apartment and took Ray into custody. He offered no resistance.

Gary Police Chief John Roby told The Associated Press that the suspect admitted shooting Boyd and told authorities where he hid the gun.

The suspect is the third of the Burts' seven children. Burt Sr. said his son obtained a gun following the 1999 beating "He talked about how he had to protect himself."

The Burt family is trying to obtain the services of a public defender for the suspect.

Meanwhile, Burt's daughter has moved from her house to an undisclosed location after receiving threats, he said.

And Burt Sr. said he feels threatened. Since the shooting, gang members have been driving slowly in front of Burt's house, he said. In response, police have boosted their presence on the street, too, he added.

Burt Sr. said his son has no record, is not a gang member, and, at 5 feet 7 inches and 130 pounds, is no bully. Still, his son is no pushover either, Burt said. "When they threaten him, he's going to protect himself."

Burt Jr. was charged Friday as an adult with murder. He is being held at the Lake County Jail in nearby Crown Point, Indiana.

He could face a 65-year prison term if convicted, authorities said. He will likely be arraigned Monday.

School Superintendent Mary Guinn said Friday the suspect stopped attending classes and his name was removed from school enrollment records last November. Classes will be held Monday under heightened security, she said.

Area churches will be open to students and parents over the weekend, Guinn said. A school crisis team will return to the school Monday.

Lew Wallace High School is in a tough neighborhood of Gary, said a man who lives near the school. "Shootings happen all the time around here," he said.



RELATED STORIES:
1 killed in Gary, Indiana, school shooting, police say
March 30, 2001

RELATED SITES:
About The Gary Community Schools
Lew Wallace High School

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