2 Hurt in New Orleans School Shooting

Two teen-age boys shot and wounded each other with the same gun during a fight at their middle school today after a 13-year-old expelled student slipped the weapon to one of them through a fence, authorities said.

The wounded boys, ages 13 and 15, are in critical condition.

Witnesses said the eighth-graders had argued before the shootings at Carter G. Woodson Middle School, where students must pass through a metal detector to enter. The younger boy got the gun from outside the chain-link fence and shot the 15-year-old, only to have the older boy grab the gun and shoot him, police Lt. Marlon Defillo said.

The younger boy will be charged with attempted murder, Defillo said.

The boy accused of providing the handgun was arrested about five hours after the shooting at his home in a nearby housing project, part of an economically mixed neighborhood not far from St. Charles Avenue's elegant antebellum mansions. This boy, who was recently expelled for fighting, was booked on charges of illegally carrying a weapon and being a principal to attempted first-degree murder, Defillo said. He faces a detention hearing Wednesday.

Concerned Parents The shooting happened just before noon in a breezeway between the main building at Carter G. Woodson Middle School and the cafeteria, where hundreds of students were eating lunch. Police recovered the .38-caliber revolver.

Mike Smith, a 14-year-old seventh-grader, said he heard the shots, and “everybody started running.” He added that teachers made the students stay inside classrooms until it was safe.

More than 100 parents hurried to the school and lined up outside as officials let small groups enter the building to get their children. One parent said recent violence at the school had made her daughter fearful.

“She was afraid to come to school two weeks ago because boys were fighting,” Beronica Lewis said as she hugged her daughter Neshetta, 14, outside the building. “I told her she’d be all right. Now I’m just afraid for my child.”

The school is among modest pastel-colored houses in New Orleans’ uptown area, a racially and economically diverse part of town.

“I want my little boy out of this school,” Danette Weatherspoon said as she waited to take her 12-year-old son, Darrell, home. “They need more security guards here.”

Shooting Powder Keg? There had been several fights reported at the school in the past few weeks, but it was unclear whether the shooting was related to those disputes, said David Bowser, a police spokesman.

Police Chief Richard Pennington said investigators were checking into parents’ claims that there has been a gang turf battle involving students at the schools.

“We don’t think this is gang-related. We think it was two children involved in a fight and a third person came and gave a gun,” he said.

School Superintendent Alphonse Davis said classes will be canceled for three days but the school will remain open for students who want to talk to counselors.

When classes resume next week, two or three police officers will be assigned to the school, in addition to the 10 usually in the neighborhood, police said.

“This horrifying event brings too close to home the widespread proliferation of gun violence and underscores our fighting belief that handgun are too easily available to children,” Mayor Marc Morial said.

In 1998, New Orleans was one of the first cities to sue gunmakers to recover the cost of gun violence and accidental shootings involving children. About 25 other municipalities have filed similar lawsuits.