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Special Event

Michigan Persecutor Holds News Conference on Elementary School Shooting Investigation

Aired March 2, 2000 - 11:59 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ARTHUR BUSCH, GENESEE COUNTY PROSECUTOR: ... years in state's prison. The investigation continues and we are very active, continuing to talk to people in our community to try and understand exactly what happened. The theory of involuntary manslaughter in Michigan requires the prosecutor to show gross negligence, and that is this defendant was grossly negligent in allowing the little boy to get a loaded pistol. Ultimately that pistol was taken to school and used in this homicide. Our theory is an alternative -- is in the alternative. We also are alleging, or will allege, in our complaint that the defendant contributed to the delinquency of a minor, and as a result of that misdemeanor, the manslaughter was committed.

The charges in this case obviously are going to be something that will be weighed by a judge. There are things that we have learned in the investigation that I'm not permitted by court rule to disclose. We're not going to disclose this morning anything about what was said by this defendant to the police investigators.

I hope that this prosecution can send a message to America that those guns that you think make you safer make our community more dangerous. The fact that the stolen weapon from a residence is used in such a fashion is absolutely abhorrent to all of us. President Clinton, I think, has it right when he said this morning that we need legislation in America that halts parents and others who choose to have handguns in their homes. They should be responsible for the consequences of their careless and negligent handling of those weapons.

Michigan isn't one of those states yet. There are some 14 or 15 across America, with Florida being the first, who have passed this law. We now have a higher hurdle to overcome here in Michigan in order to have a successful prosecution. I don't want to characterize whether this is a strong or weak case. That will be for a jury to decide, and, ultimately, that is where the decisions will lie.

I spoke with the family this morning, with the mother and the grandmother, and they were very understanding and very appreciative of our efforts. I asked my staff to assign a social worker to work with them from our Crime Victims Services program, and they will be followed through the system by our professional staff so that they not only understand what's going on, but if they have questions or concerns or special needs, that this victim's family will be dealt with.

We were not looking for scapegoats in this case. We are looking for justice for Kayla, and, ultimately, that justice will be found in a court of law. We're not here to convict Mr. James (ph) before he gets to a courtroom. And I want to make it clear that any comments, the fact that I've charged this person does not mean that he's guilty. It simply means that I believe that there's probable cause to bring the charge of involuntary manslaughter. Nothing more should be presumed. Mr. James has the presumption of innocence, and we want to maintain that posture. As the prosecutor, I have a duty to see that he gets a fair trial. And so any comments that I make should not infer that he is, in fact, guilty.

Lastly, I would like to ask the media's cooperation. The media has been very helpful to us, but we are asking the public that if they have any information about the activities that occurred on Julius Street (ph), if they have any information whatsoever about this case or the circumstances surrounding this case, that they contact the Mount Morris Township Police at 789-3441. They can also call the ATF which has a hotline at 1-800-ATF-GUNS; 1-800-ATF-GUNS.

This case and the type of justice it's received in this case is dependent on the cooperation of the community. Now is the time to come forward. Now is the time to stand up for a safe community if you want one, and to assist the police by giving whatever information you might have. Whatever you might know happened in that neighborhood, now is the time to come forward and help us.

Thank you.

Mr. King, the chief of police in Mount Morris Township will have a few words.

CHIEF ERIC KING, MOUNT MORRIS TOWNSHIP POLICE: Good morning. I'd just like to make one clarification that the prosecutor had spoken to in regards to a number at the Mount Township Police Department where the public could call. It is an established tip line, and the phone number is, of course, area code 810-785-5785. And any information that the public would have in regards to this investigation, or concerns, we would appreciate it if you would forward them on through that tip line.

I would certainly hope that, never again, myself or another police chief has to be in this position. I would hope that this type of incident would never happen in the United States of America. At the same time, I feel quite proud that what has occurred here in regards to this investigation, proud to stand in front of you and to be an American. I understand the issues that we have before us, but it's just been overwhelming with -- in regards to the outpouring and concern that people have shown towards the community.

Although the investigation still will maintain on that course, as stated by the prosecutor, we are in a situation of recovery now. We are addressing those issues as a recovery issue. I would hope and pray that we can come to some resolve on this issue. FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: You've been listening to a news conference from a Mundy Township, Michigan, a community just outside Flint, Michigan where that school shooting took place two days ago claiming the life of 6-year-old Kayla Rolland. We heard Arthur Busch saying that he intends to charge 19-year-old Jamal James (ph) with involuntary manslaughter and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Ed Garsten, our correspondent, is there in the room.

Ed, what does this suggest about the case and where it goes now?

ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, all along, Arthur Busch has said he had no intention of charging the 6-year-old boy who he believes did the shooting, but said that the people that are responsible for putting that gun, which was reported stolen back in December, in his hands are the ones that should pay for this crime.

Jamal James actually turned himself in yesterday, then was allowed to go. He's 19-years-old. They believe that he is the person that made the gun available to the little boy. The gun was just lying on a bed under some blankets where the boy could easily find it. So the prosecutor has found his target. This is the guy they're going to go after to say, you put the gun in this little boy's hands and that's why this tragic shooting occurred.

SESNO: Had a comment just now from the prosecutor: I'm not looking for scapegoats, we're looking for justice for Kayla.

GARSTEN: Well, he said all along that both of the children, Kayla and the little boy that shot her, are both the victims in this case. He has said that he did not want to take retribution on anyone but simply wanted to send a message that someone has to be responsible for the actions of little children who are too young, in his opinion, to form the type of intent to do these types of things.

So he's trying to send this message not only to find someone responsible, but also to put the squeeze on the state legislature to create some sort of parental or adult responsibility law that's strong enough when children do things that perhaps they are not old enough to realize what they did.

SESNO: Ed Garsten, thanks very much -- reporting to us from Michigan.

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