Austin Hancock, the teen who injured four students in the Feb. 29 shooting at Madison Jr./Sr. High School has been sentenced to the Ohio Department of Youth Services until his 21st birthday.
Hancock, now 15, who has been behind bars in the Butler County Juvenile Detention Center since the incident, entered a true plea in April to four counts of attempted murder with gun specifications and inducing panic.
He was also designated a serious youthful offender, which means he will have an adult sentence hanging over his head while serving out the juvenile sentence. Judge Ronald Craft also sentenced Hancock to nine years in adult prison, but stayed that sentence until the teen’s behavior is known at the Ohio Department of Youth Services.
Hancock spoke in court before learning his fate, saying, “I would like the victims to know they were not targeted.”
One victim, Cooper Caffery, spoke from the witness stand, just a few feet from Hancock.
“I want you to know I forgive you,” the teen said. He added that he had considered Austin a good friend.
“The Austin I knew was one of my best friends, not that kid holding the gun in the cafeteria on Feb. 29,” Caffery said.
A statement from the family of shooting victim Cameron Smith was also read in court. The boy is still recovering after several surgeries, his family said.
Hancock’s mother, Kristi Blevins, cried as she read a statement to the judge.
She said her son is not “an ordinary, self-absorbed criminal with no regard for others.”
“With guidance and God’s help, Austin has potential to get back on the right path,” Blevins said.
Before handing down his sentence, Craft said the community must become pro-active and stop school violence.
“Parents should not be afraid to send their kids to school and children should not be afraid to go to school,” Craft said.
To Hancock, Craft said, “I don’t know why you did this exactly. It doesn’t make any sense to me in a lot of ways … I hope you can make something of yourself while you are doing your time.”
Charlie Rittgers, Hancock’s defense attorney, said he is pleased the boy got to stay in the juvenile system.
“Most of these kids that get this blended sentence (juvenile with an adult sentence attached) make it. They never have to serve the adult sentence,” he said.
Rittgers said Hancock had no plan to shoot certain classmates.
“It is just an act the defies explanation,” Rittgers said, declining to give more specifics about Hancock’s motive in the shooting.
After the sentencing, Blevins spoke to the media.
“I don’t know why Austin chose that as his out … but there are factors that played into the situation that everyone is not aware of that I think Austin just snapped,” she said, adding that Hancock’s father has full custody of Austin.